Since before we left Seattle we had always planned to spend Christmas in Barra de Navidad, translated: “ Christmas Bar” (bar meaning a river delta sandbar not a watering hole!) We had heard wonderful things about Barra and their Christmas decorations and celebrations from cruising friends for many years. And Christmas is Kirk’s favorite holiday. So we were excited to check it out—with a name like “Christmas”, it had to be a fun town, right?!
Holiday Decorations Around Barra
However, our first year after leaving Seattle we only made it as far as San Diego by Christmas, and Ensenada, Mexico by New Year’s Eve. So much to see and do along the California coast! The second year we just made it to Puerto Vallarta by Christmas after touring the Sea of Cortez and our tango with hurricane Newton. Then we spent the next couple years falling in love with Vallarta, and troubleshooting and fixing some pesky engine issues along the way.
We finally made it to Barra de Navidad in February 2020, only to have the whole world shut down, including all the ports in Mexico, and we were “stuck“ in Barra for five months. Almost 2 years later, we are still here! Things move at a much slower pace in Mexico, and in Barra in particular… And with Heidi‘s work and school studies she needs reliable access to four little letters that most of you take for granted. Wi-Fi.
From the Virgin of Guadalupe to a very creative Christmas tree made of CDs, to Santa-Katrina, Barra has it all.
Last year Christmas in Barra was pretty much a non-event due to the world pandemic still raging. This year pandemic be damned, Barra is hopping again as a Christmas and surfing resort town. Of course we are still social distancing and masking anytime we are out in public. And we have never seen Barra as busy as it is these days.
We’ve heard tales from cruising friends of past typical Barra Christmases including over 70 boats anchored in the lagoon. But if that is really true, to date there are still only a handful—six or seven boats anchored in the lagoon—and the marina is still only half full. Most of the new boats coming into the marina are large Nordhavn motor yachts, between 65-80 feet long. We are grateful to be on a dock full of sailboats so our view (and the sun!) is not too obstructed by the three-story tall behemoths.
Christmas Boat Parade
Many of the boats including Due West are festively decorated with lights for the holidays. And last night there was a lighted boat parade from the marina, out through the channel, and into Bahia de Navidad, along the beachfront towns of Barra and Melaque and back. We opted not to participate in the boat parade, as navigating the channel in the dark on the return can be a bit sketchy. So we were asked to be judges for the boat parade from ashore. A lovely vantage point for photography too. Congratulations to s/v Monsoon, the smallest boat in the parade with the most creative decorations!
The Angel Tree, a Mexican Holiday Wedding and Christ of the Cyclone
Heidi helped fellow cruising amiga Elinore, on s/v Nakamal volunteer to collect donations at the “Angel Tree” one evening in town.
The Angel Tree is a joint effort between the local town government and the church, to ensure that no family in need goes without food or gifts for their children at Christmas. People (mostly gringos) stop by the tree each night in December, and pick out an ornament with a dollar amount for a family in need. The night that Heidi and Elinore volunteered we collected about $250 US. There is an application form and a screening process for those who are in need, and they make very sure there is a legitimate need, no scamming the system. Last year even during the pandemic the event raised enough money that there was surplus to help people who needed oxygen tanks from the pandemic throughout the year.
The little Angel Tree is set up right outside the church on a pedestrian walkway with lots of popular restaurants. On that particular evening there was a wedding going on in the church, and apparently the groom was a member of a mariachi band… so there was lots of great mariachi music accompanying the wedding. Many of the guests were dressed to the nines, and there appeared to be multiples of bridesmaids wearing one of three different dresses, some in forest green dresses, some in red dresses, and others in pink and white dresses with embroidered bodices… We never did figure out the significance of the color coded dresses, LOL. There are definitely some cultural nuances that get lost in translation…
A local wedding in the Barra de Navidad church, with Christ of the Cyclone.
But here’s an interesting story we learned that night… If you are Catholic or Christian, you might ask why the arms of the crucifix are down at his sides at the altar in the Barra de Navidad church? Not being churchgoers ourselves, we can’t say we noticed this detail. But as the story goes, during the devastating hurricane Lily on Sept 1, 1971, people were taking refuge from the storm in the Church, when the arms of Jesus Christ on the church’s crucifix broke and hung down at his sides. The moment the arms broke, the hurricane’s force stopped, and no lives were lost in Barra. Where as in Manzanillo, 40 miles to the south, 1,500 people lost their lives in that storm. The crucifix in the Barra church has been known as Christ of the Cyclone, ever since. And the Pope even dictated his arms remain down because it was a miracle…
Christmas Eve or Nochebuena in Mexico
We had heard there would be a Christmas Eve “Moto-taxi Parade” down the streets of Barra de Navidad. Moto-taxis are little 3-wheel cabbed “Tuk-tuks” like they have in Southeast Asia. So we ventured into town Christmas Eve night to check it out… but apparently, it didn’t really happen… this truck in the video above was the only vehicle in the parade. So we took a fun walk through the Barra neighborhoods on Christmas Eve night to check out lights and decorations. Almost every house or business was decorated in some way. And we stumbled upon this little gem of a small decorated home under renovation, down a side street.
Mexicans celebrate Christmas Eve with a huge extended family dinner. This is often served outside on tables under a tree in the back yard, or on the street. And sometimes their Christmas trees are outside too. In our walk around town, we saw everyone setting up their loooooong dining tables. Then at midnight they typically attend Mass and after midnight Mass, they light tons of fireworks and hold the family dinner. Then the kids get to open their gifts. So many Mexicans are up most of Christmas Eve night. And Christmas day isn’t such a big deal here, like it is in the US, as they may be sleeping their Christmas day away! If you’re not Mexican, good luck sleeping Christmas night, most of the night is punctuated with bursts of fireworks. Mexicans definitely know how to celebrate every holiday, or any old Tuesday, Friday, whatever, any excuse for a Fiesta!
Holiday Decor Aboard Due West
Our non-denominational Christmas decorations include our shrine with Thai Buddha (wearing a Santa hat), hanging out with Ganesha (Hindu elephant god), Laughing Buddha, the Virgin of Guadalupe (thanks Karen & Roger!) Santa, and Rudolph. We are equal opportunity, non-judgemental Omnists aboard Due West. The palm tree Christmas tree finally got decorated with lights and ornaments today! And we love how our Seattle snow globe reminds us of past snowy Christmases in Seattle and all our friends there.
We have been so busy with life recently (see PVR to SLC and Adios Albuquerque and RIP Dad) we’re late to the holiday game! Kirk worked tirelessly to get our aging blue and colored lights up on the exterior of Due West (see photo top of blog, left side lit boat is Due West) and at times it was a bit Clark Griswold-like, when they wouldn’t light up, after testing out OK. Es la vida! First world holiday problems… So we are barely just getting our interior Christmas decorations put up now… but we will be sure to watch the Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Christmas Vacation tonight…watching those classic movies (along with Love Actually) have become a holiday tradition for us.
Another thing we really look forward to every December is listening to our wonderful collection of modern rock-and-roll, big-band, pop, blues, jazz, reggae, world beat, and zydeco holiday music we recorded over the years from KMTT and KXRX (two Seattle radio stations that no longer exist!) when they used to play 24 Hours of Holiday Music each year from the late 80’s into the mid-90’s. Who remembers Norman B?! So we thought we’d share a few of our favs here in no particular order :
A Baker’s Dozen of Fav Holiday Songs
- Back Door Santa – Clarence Carter (1968)
- Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses (1981)
- Merry Christmas From the Family – Jill Sobule (1995)
- Dig that Crazy Santa Claus – Brian Setzer Orchestra (2005)
- Soul Christmas. – Graham Parker and Nona Hendryx (1994)
- Little Saint Nick – Beach Boys (1964)
- Red Lights (Merry Christmas) – Dream So Real (1988)
- There’s Another Santa Claus – Bob Rivers (1993)
- Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty (1992)
- Christmas Time – BoDeans (1989)
- Merry Christmas Baby – Southern Culture on the Skids (1995)
- Santa Claus is Back in Town – Elvis Presley (1957)
- Christmas Must Be Tonight – The Band (1977)
Merry Christmas from the Family… (missing the White Christmas in Seattle this year!)
May the joy and lights of the season fill your hearts with love. Wishing you and your families Feliz Navidad y Feliz Año Nuevo! Paz, Paz, Paz… LOVE and HUGS from Mexico.
XOXO Heidi, Santa Kirk, Tikka, and Santa Tosh
Tosh & Tikka eagerly awaiting Santa’s arrival!