A new pequeño looks forward to his first Christmas on the ranch. December 5, 2016 - Honduras
Horacio* smiling with a Christmas drawing.
While Horacio,* one of NPH’s newest pequenos, loves the three meals a day, education, and dedicated tios and tias that are provided by life of El Rancho Santa Fe, like most 7-year-olds, one thing he is now most excited about is Christmas.
Horacio arrived at NPH just this year, in January, with two of his siblings. Before, they all lived together with one other sibling who is currently living elsewhere. Sadly, while they usually had food three times a day, meals were not always a guarantee.
He is now getting full breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with the rest of his hogar, Casa Suyapa, the home of the ranch’s littlest children. Horacio’s involvement with food stops after devouring it at mealtimes because he’s too young to be helping out in the kitchen. That is perhaps for the best as he exclaims, “Doing chores outside is so much more fun anyways!”
Common to the region, chicken, rice, and beans are some of the main staples of weekly meals on the ranch. They are combined with a mix of vegetables, fruits, pastas, and breads to provide for a balanced weekly diet. Like many 7-year-olds his favorite food is an easy decision - “the pancakes!”
Food, being one of the most important components to healthy growth, is not always a given for Honduran children or families. Across the country, one-third of the population lives on less than one dollar a day, which contributes to the 1.5 million of the 7.5 million Hondurans who face hunger.** Despite his age, the importance of the meals he now gets on the ranch is not lost on Horacio. “I am happy that I get to eat more food here every day than before. If we don’t eat, we are not going to grow!”
On the ranch, food is an important part of the Christmas celebration as well. Across Honduras, reenactments of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter are common. Christmas Eve Mass is widely attended – like Horacio came to before living here – and traditional meals include pork and tamales. For Horacio, gifts and large holiday meals were not always possible, but since living on the ranch he has a large family to celebrate the birth of Jesus with.
For the holiday, every hogar, or home, on the ranch prepares and decorates their own nativity scenes to present, and most homes are found to be decorated with lights, streamers, or whatever else the kids can come up with. “Los estrenos” – the receiving of gifts on Christmas Eve – is one of the most popular ranch traditions. So, following his afternoon nap, Horacio will be waking up and searching Casa Suyapa’s gardens for a bundle of wrapped clothes playfully hidden by his tios and tias.
A traditional Christmas meal at NPH Honduras is nacatamales, which is corn meal dough stuffed usually with rice, a piece of meat, potato. The parcel is then wrapped in plantain leaves and boiled or steam-cooked. Because the tias, tios, and other staff have the holiday off to spend with their immediate families, students from high school and university return to the ranch to help pick up the workload and this includes preparing the meal!
One great ranch tradition that happens on Christmas day is where all children visit neighboring villages to give out toys and candy to children that live there. The message carries throughout our family and into the community that while we may not have a lot, there is always enough to share with those in need.
Before arriving, Horacio’s Christmas was a small meal, a smaller tree, and spending time with his siblings. Now at NPH, he and his siblings are excited for what's to come with their new, much larger family.
*Name changed to protect privacy
**Statistics provided by the UN World Food Programme
Alex Hanel Communication Officer
You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson