Here we are, December at last! Deck the halls with boughs of holly, t’is the season to be jolly; I wish I could say that without sarcasm. I really wish from the bottom of my heart that we could exclaim that out loud in this small corner of the world—you know, if there was a semblance of normalcy left in this country.
December (and of course, Christmas itself) used to be are a cathartic time for Venezuelans, a time where you could finally wind down after a long year. Rejoice, celebrate, eat, drink, sing, love, give some caress to your household, and prepare yourself for the upcoming year. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore—it’s not gonna be the case for a long time, I’m afraid.
While our Worker President, Driver of Victories, and Son of Chavez (again, I’m not making any of these titles up) has officially decreed the start of our Christmas festivities on November 23th (the day of his birthday) the spirit of this most sacred holiday is absent.
For the past 55 years the Cruz del Avila (Avila Cross) has been lit up on the first day of December to signal the arrival of Christmas in Caracas. This year it was turned on a week ahead of schedule in order to coincide with Maduro’s birthday.
Decorations have been sparsely placed around Caracas, the slightly lower temperatures of the season have arrived, the gaitas (traditional music style from Zulia, whose lyrics usually range from festive, humorous, or political protest) have begun playing on the radio, and yet, the joy, the cheerfulness of the season, the spirit of Christmas itself hasn’t arrived. Sure, the Worker-President can certainly decree the start of Christmas through the state’s media on the day of his birthday, but you can’t force happiness upon a battered populace, specially when you’re the spearhead of the calamity that has befallen upon us.
This, without a doubt, has shaped up to be the bleakest Christmas in this broken nation.
There are many factors that can be attributed to the death of the festive spirits, but they’re all part of the out of control crisis that the country is going through. Hyperinflation is a crucial factor: A 150% raise in minimum wage was announced hours before December started, and we all know what it means—adding more fuel to the ever-raging fires of hyperinflation, fighting fire with fire, just print more money, right? Prices are already doubling—even tripling once more, the wheel keeps spinning.
Hallacas, the centerpiece of Venezuela’s Christmas cuisine, has become unreachable for most. Ironically, this traditional dish owes its origins to the slaves of centuries past. Today, the modern slaves of Venezuela’s socialism can’t even afford to prepare them as the new monthly wage (which is still less than $10 per month) can’t even cover a fraction of its ingredients list.
The rest of Venezuela’s Christmas culinary repertoire: Pork leg, Pan de Jamón, salad, grapes, etc. are also prohibitively expensive. The pork itself is a special case, given its hefty price tag. The government has once again weaponized the supply and delivery of subsidized pork to households using their CLAP and Fatherland ID programs (the latter being our dangerously inspired by China’s Social Score system, whose ultimate goal is to control every aspect of our lives and deprive citizens of rights should they not fall in line with the ever growing controls).
A lot of men and women who still support the government beyond logic and reason were left disappointed when they didn’t get theirs last year, this year is shaping to be an encore of that scenario. Sure, they’ll protest and raise their voices because they didn’t get their cheap pork, not like it’ll amount to anything; they’re being given small cuts per household. As for material holiday gifts, you can forget about those aside from simple treats perhaps, and even so that’d be stretching it, considering that prices are skyrocketing following the latest minimum wage raise.
But setting aside the food and the material; if we focus on the spiritual aspect of the season well—that’s where the problem lies, that’s why this Christmas will have no color. Deep down we are collectively broken down; our will is crushed, our strength expended, and our spirits shattered by a nonstop series of trials and tribulations that seem to have no end in sight. I suppose that despite all that has happened in the past months well, at least we’re alive, and that’s a good thing™.
Now, the government’s media is going to paint you another portrait: A joyful Venezuela, people grateful that their wages were raised for the sixth time this year (unless I counted wrong, I can only count so many minimum wage raises before I start losing track). Hashtags forcefully trended by bots will show you that everything is pure and unaltered bliss and joy. High ranking members of the government have continuously professed that this will be the best Christmas ever—that’s what they said about the previous one, and the one before, and so on.
Feliz Chavidad, as they used to say. We’re finally getting some of that hardcore authentic socialist Christmas experience.
On a personal level well—where do I even begin? This is going to be the first Christmas since our mother passed away, it’s not going to be an easy one. While I spent two of them without her due to work-related reasons this will be my brother’s first Christmas without his mother, and given his condition it’s gonna be rough for him.
Add my already intense depression, insomnia, and inner demons; mix them with the reality of Venezuela, and I don’t get much color for the season—despite that, I have to find ways to keep him happy in these colorless days; making him smile is my Christmas wish for the year, finishing the first draft on my novel is my other gift to myself (only a few pages to go).
Christmas is around the corner and so far I don’t know what to do for it; we don’t have plans or anything or no one else to spend it with, the same goes for New Years. We’ve always done these festivities as a close family group in favor of parties and large gatherings (I’m a social outcast, after all), you know, something more ‘traditional’ if it classifies as such—but this time is just my brother and I. The last time we made Hallacas with my mom was in 2016, I’ll always miss hers because every Venezuelan knows that the best Hallacas are your mom’s.
Certainly, I didn’t want to spend this specific Christmas in this broken country but alas, things haven’t moved as smooth as I had originally planned, bureaucracy is a real bitch indeed, it’s like every time I solve a thing two more pop up.
My mother would always put up the nativity scene around these days, I don’t know what to do with that either. Should I put it up with my brother? It just wouldn’t be the same without her, you know. We haven’t had a Christmas tree in a while so that’s out of the question too.
We assembled our Nativity scene.— Christmas Kaleb (@KalebPrime) December 3, 2017
Despite all the shit going on, despite cancer, despite socialism, and despite it being such a bleak Christmas for my country, we still have to celebrate somehow. pic.twitter.com/Nii0tXTg3d
I had no idea that last year’s Nativity scene was to be my mom’s last…
I don’t know, I honestly don’t know what to do; less than three weeks until Christmas is here and I have absolutely no idea what to do on it. It doesn’t feel like December to me, it doesn’t even remotely feel like Christmas at all. I guess I’ll see if I can learn a new simple recipe to cook for Christmas dinner and figure out the rest on the fly. I suppose I could pray and meditate during those days in an attempt to muster as much strength and willpower as I can to ramp up my escape efforts starting on January now that I’ve cleared some of the most urgent bureaucratic affairs on my desk.
One thing is for sure, no matter what it takes, no matter how hard it’ll be, this will be our last Christmas here—I just want the two of us to have a colorful and most wonderful time of the year once more.
But, despite this bleak holidays I sincerely wish that you have a fantastic Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whichever one rocks your boat.