Christmas in Guatemala

Martin and Jill Church

We were nearly out of purified water, and then we ran out of gas. My taro root had been roasting in the oven for an hour when I began to wonder why it still wasn’t quite done. If I’ve learned anything from Guatamalans it’s that every problem has a solution. Max, Ann, and their two boys arrived 30 minutes later carrying the precious gas, along with food for our Christmas Eve meal. 

Mashed Taro Root

Mashed Taro Root

Christmas Eve Dinner

Christmas Eve dinner is the big celebration here in Guatemala. 

Families gather around the table feasting on tamales, kaq’ik, grapes (for good luck), and of course chicken (every Guatemalan meal has chicken). They stay up until midnight to shoot off fireworks, filling the night sky with bright colors and loud booms. Martin and I went up to the roof of the house to watch the show. It was a little terrifying watching the large fireworks be set off by untrained people in close proximity to us. And yet it felt like a joyous celebration, as if each firework was saying “Hooray! It is the birthday of Jesus!” I’m not a religious person, yet I can honor the religious beliefs of others, especially in such a spectacular display of joy

Martin and I spent Christmas Eve day wandering around Cobán. 

Granizadas, or flavored ice, are often made with artificially flavored sugar syrups. Not so at El Rincon Granizadas y Mas. I had the Pepitas de Lemon, which was crushed pumpkin seeds, cayenne pepper, lime juice, and salt over shaved ice, while Martin devoured the Pina Colada – crushed fresh pineapple with shaved coconut over shaved ice. More please!Granizades Granizades Jill Granizades Martin

Stores decorated for Christmas by spreading pine needles on their doorsteps.

Stores decorated for Christmas by spreading pine needles on their doorsteps.

We walked to the market only to discover it had ballooned in size for Christmas Eve. Streets normally opened to cars were now filled with so many vendors that customers could barely squeeze through. I bought some taro root to roast and mash for dinner.

We climbed the stairway next to our laundromat to find a huge church with an impressive view of Coban and a creepy cemetary. 

Coban Church Cuban Church view Cuban church cemetery

That evening, we waved goodnight to Max and Ann as they left our house stuffed with delicious food.

The boys carefully carried their freshly assembled gingerbread house to the car while Rachel, their chihuahua, followed closely at their heels. 

Exhausted from the day’s adventures, Martin and I collapsed into bed and drifted off to sleep while listening to fireworks echo in the night.

Max's Shrimp Tacos
Serves 4
Max loved the shrimp tacos I made for Christmas Eve dinner so much, that I decided to share the recipe.
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
40 min
217 calories
14 g
120 g
12 g
15 g
4 g
254 g
767 g
5 g
0 g
6 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 217
Calories from Fat 105
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 12g
Saturated Fat 4g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Cholesterol 120mg
Sodium 767mg
Total Carbohydrates 14g
Dietary Fiber 6g
Sugars 5g
Protein 15g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  2. 1/3 cup sliced scallions
  3. 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  4. 1 tomato, chopped
  5. 1 jalapeno, minced
  6. 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  7. 1/2 cup salsa verde
  8. 1 avocado, cubed
  9. 1 lime
  10. 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  11. 8 oz frozen shrimp, thawed
  12. Cayenne pepper, to taste
  13. Salt, to taste
  14. Lettuce leafs
  1. Mix the black beans, scallions, bell pepper, tomato, jalapeno, cilantro, salsa verde, and avocado together in a medium bowl. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 the lime over the mixture and stir gently. Set aside.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the coconut oil. When the oil is warm, add the thawed shrimp, stirring to coat in the oil. Cook for 2-4 minutes, then stir to cook the shrimp on the other side. Cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Toss with the remaining lime juice. Add to the black bean mixture. Taste. Season with salt and cayenne pepper as needed.
  3. To serve, fill each lettuce leaf with a scoop or two of the bean mixture. The amount you add to the lettuce leaf is determined by the size of the leaf. Arrange on a plate and serve at room temperature.
Craving Sustenance

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5 Responses

  1. Juliekotta says:

    I like the idea of fireworks in the winter.. It gets dark much earlier so it makes more sense

  2. Jill Wigert says:

    True! Ironically, they still wait until midnight to shoot them off.

  3. Mom-in-law says:

    Love the pictures! You and Martin look so happy! Merry Christmas/Feliz Navidad!

  4. Krissy Chi-wow-wow-wow says:

    Merry Christmas Mill and Jartin. 🙂