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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Panama gears up for the holidays

Whew, December is a whirlwind month in this country. I made the mistake of trying to stop by a couple of stores yesterday at around noon. This was a bad idea for two reasons. First, yesterday was the Panamanian Mother's Day. So outside of every supermarket and shopping center, vendors were selling stuffed animals, balloon hearts, roses, and chocolates. People were making a mad dash through the aisles, stuffing their carts with all the traditional Panamanian party foods, such as rice, guandu (pigeon peas), potatoes for potato salad, jars of sangria, ham, and tamales.

A nice turnout for Mother's Day at the Powers' home

Men were rushing through the Farmacia Arrocha, a local pharmacy that's a lot like a CVS/Walgreens in the States, taking advantage of the 20% off perfumes sale they had going on and trying to decide if buying the special woman in their life a new vacuum or iron is really such a good idea. It's not by the way. In a shopping mall parking lot that's usually fairly empty, I couldn't find a single spot, and this was at midday. 

3 Generations of Mama

The second reason trying to get out and about was such a bad idea was the fact that some Panamanian workers had just received their decimo, which is also called the 13th month. All Panamanians get an extra month of pay that is divided into three payments throughout the year. So they receive an extra 1/3rd of their salary payment in April, in August, and in December. This shows up right on time for the holidays.

In a part of the country that is hot and humid all year long, including Christmas season, sometimes it's hard to get in the Christmas spirit. I grew up in South Florida, so I'm used to being able to head to the beach on Christmas Eve, but having lived in Anchorage, Alaska, Chicago, Illinois, and Columbus, Ohio, I do miss cold winters. Sipping hot chocolate with candy cane stirrers isn't the same in 95 degree weather.

Panama may not have Chicago's Magnificent Mile with its trees lit up to put you instantly in the holiday mood, but Panama City's Calle 50 does its best to make the time of year special. Already, early in December, the ASSA insurance company, and Global Bank have their exterior decorations up. Inside the F&F Tower, also know as the Revolution Tower (or the big twisty building), a large tree and some elves await visitors at the lobby entrance. 

So while Panama gears up for the holidays, I'll keep you informed on some of the cool things that go on here. And keep your eyes open for a special post, where I'll fill you in on some great places to pick up gifts in Panama City.

Thanks for reading,