Culture, fiestas

The Joy of the Child

Niño Manuel (David Knowlton)

Cusco’s plaza is filled with vendors and excitement, today, the second day of Santurantikuy and Christmas Eve. People come to see what is offered and to have an anticucho (a grilled meat skewer from a smoke-filled corner of the square). The market is about selling figures of the Christ child, the niño Manuel, and others that go into making up the manger scene found in almost every home since tonight at midnight people will place the “new-born” infant in a manger in the scene.

This is the culmination of Christmas here, while fireworks go off and people are gathered in families to laugh, joke, and eat.

The feast celebrates the family, and especially the coming of a divine “new” baby, with hope and expectation just as through the year children have been born and been received in the families.

Throughout the days leading up to tonight, throughout the city, people have offered hot chocolate and gifts to children, especially kids from poorer families. They line up and wait patiently for their turn to receive a cup of the fragrant warmth, even if it is raining. They also tend to get a slice of panettone, or a bizcocho or two.

Not only is this a celebration of wealthier people giving to poorer children, since adults by definition are wealthier than children, it is a recognition of the giving and the feeding that is a basis of Cusco’s society.

While tonight the festivities will take place in the households, among the family, in the lead up they have been in public space where institutions, organization, and sets of friends have chosen to give to children just as tonight people will finalize their scenes of social life in order to vitalize them with the Christ child.

This time of year is gorgeous, with greenery, flowers everywhere, and fertile fields growing. It is also the time when people conjoin the story of the Christ Child’s birth with the place of children in society and in their own families to consolidate generations in the miracle of giving, life, and beauty. 

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