My Grandmother and Her Christmas Belen


Grandma Charo’s home was always a warm and inviting place.  It was especially so around the holidays on Guam.  She had a humble home in the back woods in the village of MongMong.  Everyone called her Charo, although her real name was Rosario. She babysat my siblings and I ( when I was a young boy) while both our parents were at work.

 

We lived with her for a while until our home was built in Dededo. She was very loving towards us.  She would correct and scold us when we got out of hand but she loved us just as strongly with that big heart of hers.

 

She was a wonderful cook.  I can still remember her homemade doughnuts. Freshly cooked, her doughnuts would literally melt in our mouths.  I can still remember the wonderful smell of her home when she was baking them. We loved her Lipton Ice Tea (mainly because she would add a lot of sugar to it!). No one could make Ice Tea like her!

 

Grandma was a nurturer.  She was always ready with a hug.

 

During the Christmas season, she would go into the nearby jungle and gather the deep green moss. Using a combination of cinder block and wood, she would form a foundation that she would cover fully with the jungle moss. Upon the moss, she would build a nativity scene.  In Guam, we call this a

“Belen.” 

 

 

A Guam Christmas Belen

A Guam Christmas Belen

 

 

I can remember as a boy kneeling in front of the Belen and reviewing the figures of Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. There were the barn animals, and also shepherds, sheep, the three wise men and the camels.  There also was an angel and a lighted star shining upon the whole scene. It was beautiful.

 

She also had a Christmas tree and other Christmas decorations, but the Belen was the focus of Christmas in her home.  It reflected my Grandmother’s faith.

 

As part of the tradition on Guam and our family, she will hold “nobenas”, the novena prayers were accompanied by Christmas singing with a recital of the Christmas story from the scriptures. It was done in the native language of Chamorro.   When completed, Christmas treats were shared with everyone. There were several days of these nobenas and often at different people’s homes. My favorite ones were always the ones at Grandma Charo’s house.

 

A lot of the magic of my childhood involved my memories with Grandma especially during the holidays. She is no longer with us. I miss her.

 

I keep a small nativity set out every year during the holiday season.  It reminds me of the meaning of Christmas but mostly, it reminds me of a Grandmother who truly taught me about unconditional love.

One thought on “My Grandmother and Her Christmas Belen

  1. I loved reading your blog about your grandmother and Christmas. I, too have been writing about my grandparents and our Christmas traditions. It is so peaceful to recall the special times at our grandmothers home.

    I will be back to visit your blog again. Please visit my blog too.

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