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Adventures in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas in Mexico’

Christmas in Playa del Carmen 2014

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 10, 2014

“Christmas in the Caribbean…we’ve got everything but snow.” ~ Jimmy Buffett

I'm dreaming of a Playa del Carmen Christmas
More and more people these days are discovering a new holiday tradition…running away to the tropics. Instead of fighting crowds in the malls or on the highway, some folks are spreading a blanket on a white sand beach. They have replaced sleigh bells with steel drums and eggnog with margaritas. And they have traded snow boots and heavy winter coats for flip flops and bikinis. As a result, the holiday season has become one of the most popular times of year to visit the paradise of Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

It’s easy to see why. It is hard to beat a Christmas Day that begins on a Caribbean beach and ends with a gourmet dinner at a world class restaurant. And New Years Eve in Playa is celebrated with an all-night, non-stop party that fills the streets with revelers and continues on to the beach at dawn.

Now some of you reading this are saying, “That’s just fine, but it’s too early to think about Christmas.” Actually it’s not if you are thinking about joining us down here for the holidays. Things are already filling up. However with a little advance planning you can still get some of the best deals on transportation and hotels.

And while most hotels double or even triple their prices during this time of year, the Luna Blue Hotel stands by its reputation as being the best bargain in town. Our holiday prices are often as much as half of other small hotels in town!.

Just take a look. For this upcoming holiday season, rates at the Luna Blue Hotel range from $130 – 165 per night. Compare that to the rates of other properties which are increasing their holiday rates to as much as $200-400 per night! No wonder the Luna Blue Hotel has won Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Award for Best Bargain for two years in a row.

However, we are booking up fast. If you are thinking about spending the holidays in Playa, now is the time to plan. You can make a reservation directly with us by going to our reservations page. We guarantee you won’t find our prices listed for less anywhere else on the web. Or, if you have questions please feel free to Email Us.

This year give yourself the gift of some time in paradise. It will be the best present you ever receive.

Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Holiday Frustration

Posted by Tony & Cheri on December 19, 2008

It’s 10:30 pm, December 19th. We just got back from a marathan trip to Walmart, San Francisco, Mega, Soriana, Woolworth (which was closed), City Club and Chedraui. Our sole mission: trying to buy some Christmas tree lights to replace the ones we bought here last year that crumbled apart in our fingers when we took them out of the box tonight. Alas, there were NO Christmas lights to be found anywhere. Interestingly, the few Christmas items that are still in the stores (mostly ornaments and huge inflatable Santa decorations) are all 50% off…the week before Christmas! By the time Christmas is here, there will be no Christmas items in the stores at all. Does anyone else think that’s strange?!

If we were back in the States, we’d make a run out to Target, or to the nearest grocery or drug store, and buy some last minute lights–exactly the kind we wanted–which would last us the next few years, at least. Then the day after Christmas we’d stock up on anything else we needed, at half price, since the stores would still be full of everything imaginable.

Yeah, we should know by now. We should have bought them the day after Halloween when the Christmas items hit the shelves.

Oh, and none of the six stores we went to tonight had chocolate chips, either. Guess people are getting Snickerdoodles again this year.

Sometimes we really miss the USA. 🙂

Posted in Living the Dream | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Christmas in Mexico

Posted by Tony & Cheri on December 23, 2007

One of our guests at the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden recently saw us putting up the Christmas tree in the hotel and asked, quite seriously, “Do they have Christmas here in Mexico?” We explained that Mexico has been celebrating Christmas for a long time and that it has holiday customs that are some of the oldest in the world.

Dayani, Yolanda's granddaughter Fishes in the River

The Virgin is combing her hair
between the curtains.
Her hairs are of gold
and the comb of fine silver.

But look at how the fishes
in the river drink.
But look how they drink
in order to see God born.
They drink and they drink
and they return to drink,
the fishes in the river,
to see God being born.

Traditionally Christmas in Mexico has been less about gifts and consumerism and more about religious celebrations and family gatherings. The holiday season lasts from December 15th until Jan 6th. The city governments close except for police and emergency workers. Schools are out, and the children begin the long difficult wait for presents and parties. In the evening small groups of kids will stroll the main streets carrying a large tree branch decorated with tinsel and bulbs. Sometimes they also carry pictures of religious icons like the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint. The kids then will stop at a house or store or even tableside at a restaurant and begin to sing. Usually off key, almost always too fast as they hurry through the song, they still manage to look adorable as they do it. One of the more popular songs they sing, in Spanish of course, is Peces en El Rio (Fishes in the River).

Afterwards, they wait for a reward of candy or a few pesos before heading off, the little ones’ hands held by older brothers and sisters, the young teenagers quickly pulling out cell phones to call friends between songs (some things are universal).

The Luna Blue Posada DinnerBy December 20, people will have received their aguinaldos. This is the Christmas bonus which every employer is required by law to provide in their employees’ paychecks mid-December. It’s equivalent to about two weeks pay. It is also a tradition that employees are given gifts, usually in the form of food or household items. To make gift giving easier, stores offer pre-packaged gifts boxes or bags, called despensas, which generally include different types of food, such as rice, beans, corn meal, etc.

By now, the city has begun to decorate. Playa del Carmen, being well-off financially, is able to afford lots of decorations. Palm trees and bushes are strung with Christmas lights up and down the main avenues. A large crèche is set up outside of City Hall. It’s interesting to note there is no separation of religion and government here. Mexico is primarily Catholic and openly displays that fact.

As the season proceeds, more and more people attend Posada celebrations. The Gospel says that Joseph and his wife Mary (pregnant with Jesus) could not find room at the inn (la posada) until one kind person let them stay in the stable. This story is acted out as people go to dinners with family and friends. People carry candles and sparklers and sing a request for admittance to the dinner. They are denied until a statue of the baby Jesus is shown and then all are invited in. In modern times the Posada dinner has become the primary way to celebrate even for businesses. Employers are expected to have a Posada for their employees and families.

Three of Dora's five daughtersWe held our own Posada a few nights ago. We invited our employees and regular workers and ended up with about 40 people. Many brought families, including adult children with their families, visiting relatives from out of town and a few friends they picked up along the way. We served a traditional Posada menu of posole (traditional Mexican soup made of pork and corn), chicken and pork tamales in red, green and mole sauces; and tamales of rajas con queso (one of the best things we’ve ever eaten). For dessert, there were sweetened fruits wrapped in corn husks. In addition, ponche navideño, a strong, spicy punch served warm with large pieces of tropical fruits floating in it, was served. A bottle of rum is set next to the ponche bowl (we chose Havana Club, our favorite) so that adults could liberally spike their punch as they wished.

We hired a large mariachi band to play traditional songs. Normally a Posada would have a piñata for the children, but because of space limitations, we opted for gift bags of toys & candy for all the kids. They were a big hit. There were also presents for our employees and other workers. A good time was had by all. Mr. Mariachi

Next on the holiday calendar is Christmas Eve. Known as Noche Buena (the “Good Night”), it is the big celebration of the season. People will attend church and have family dinners. This is also when families and friends exchange gifts. Sadly for the kids, mostly they will receive practical gifts like clothes (just like you used to get from your grandparents). But don’t despair, on January 6, Three Kings Day (Dia de los Tres Reyes) arrives. Celebrating the three wise men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus, children awake to find toys and other presents brought during the night by the three kings. The holiday season then comes to a close.

Many of Mexico’s holiday traditions continue today as they have for many years. However, more and more American/European style Christmas customs are making their way south of the border. Christmas trees have become very popular here. So has the figure of Santa Claus. Stores play English language Christmas music continually and offer holiday sales much like one finds in the US. The manger scene set up at City Hall now competes with a gigantic Christmas tree. Last year it was festooned with giant elf dolls which looked amazingly like maniacal Cabbage Patch Kids crossed with Chucky the homicidal puppet. It was actually kind of creepy. However thankfully this year the dolls have been replaced by lights in the shapes of poinsettias, the traditional Christmas flower of Mexico, here called Flor de Nochebuena.

Tony getting kisses from Cassandra and NatashaDespite these changes, Mexico still has not caught the Christmas shopping fever that exists back in the States. The holiday spirit here is calmer, quieter and less about things and more about family. We think it’s kinda nice. We’ll be celebrating Christmas with our son Christopher who has joined us from his home in San Diego. We have decorated our tree and have already watched a Charlie Brown Christmas (probably not for the last time). We are listening constantly to our 150 Christmas CDs, including a few we just picked up in the States. We will be working at the hotel on Christmas Eve but are planning on taking Christmas day off. We’ll start with a big breakfast of praline pecan pancakes (courtesy of Harry & David back in the States) followed by an exchange of gifts by the tree. Later that day we’ll have a family Christmas dinner, including a honey bourbon glazed ham for us and chili-cheese enchiladas for Chris, who is a vegetarian. And Christmas day will also include our newest tradition: heading down to the beach and swimming in the Caribbean Sea to celebrate.

We hope all of our friends and readers of this blog will have a happy and peaceful holiday, however you celebrate.

Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo,

Tony & Cheri

Posted in Events & Happenings, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

I’m Feeling Luna Blue: The Video

Posted by Tony & Cheri on December 5, 2007

Sorry we haven’t blogged in so long. Life got kinda busy, but we’re back now. Mostly we have been working on the hotel. Playa’s low season is generally used by hotels like ours to do repairs, heavy cleaning or remodeling, or planned changes. Unfortunately, we got a little behind schedule with two bouts of dengue fever, the Mahahual relief effort, a trip back to the States, and the new puppy. (We had forgotten the difficulties of housebreaking a new puppy. What we were thinking?!)

We finally got around to doing our work at the hotel a few weeks ago. Most of the work we wanted to do was aesthetic: changes that would improve the look of the hotel, the rooms, etc. This meant repainting, buying some new furniture, putting in new plants and stonework in the garden and tiling most of the outdoor balcony areas.

During this time, Cheri had an idea. We have always thought of the Luna Blue as a place that catered to travelers, not to tourists. Our guests enjoy the adventure of a journey to a foreign country where they can explore and discover. Her thought was to paint quotations on the walls of our rooms which reflect that view. We set about collecting 18 quotes (one for each room), and on our last visit to the US, we had them cut into stencils. When we returned, we began the slow process of putting them on the walls. It took us awhile to get the hang of it (one or two walls had to be repainted or replastered after mistakes), but eventually we got it. So far everyone who has seen them thinks they look pretty cool.

Click Here to View the 'I'm Feeling Luna Blue' VideoWe were so pleased with the outcome, we tried to think of a way to share the new look and the spirit of these quotes. We came up with the idea of a slide show. There are pictures of our garden, our rooms, and our newly-inscribed walls along with pictures of Playa del Carmen and the Mayan Riviera matched with quotations that we feel embody the joy of travel. If you’d like to take a look, just Click Here or click on the picture to the right. You may have to load a small applet from Photodex, but it’s completely harmless. Unfortunately, this link doesn’t work for Mac users. The video is also posted on YouTube, which can be viewed by either PC or Mac, although the quality isn’t quite as good as the other. We hope you like it.

In the same vein, we recently came across an article about the nature of travel that was very close to our hearts. Written by Tom Swick, Travel Columnist for The South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper, the column talks about the nature of journeys. He points out that journeys aren’t always picture perfect, and that the real quality of traveling often doesn’t translate well into coffee table picture books. Personal journeys often take you to places that challenge you, surprise you, trouble you or inspire you in ways you never thought possible. That’s the kind of traveling we like and the kind of travelers we enjoy meeting. When reading the column, we found what is now one of our favorite quotes about travel: “A journey is what happens when consciousness meets geography.” We wish we would have seen this before painting the quotes. It would have made a nice addition. The piece is entitled “The Unphotogenic Beauty of our Journeys.” Tom also has a book entitled A Way to See the World: From Texas to Transylvania With a Maverick Traveler. We’ve ordered it and can’t wait to read it.

We’ll blog again soon, we promise. There are a lot of interesting things happening this month. The two of us decided we needed a shot of old fashioned American Christmas…and who does that better than Disney?? So we’re going to take a quick trip up to Orlando to experience Disneyworld and Mickey’s Annual Christmas party. When we get back, it will be time for holiday celebrations here in Playa, including our yearly posada dinner. The posada is the journey that Joseph and Mary took to Bethlehem. In Mexico, it has become the traditional name for the journey one takes to a celebration or dinner held at Christmas time. Employers are expected to host a posada dinner for their staff, along with their families, their families’ families (which may include people from several states away) and anyone else that happens to be almost family. We have five employees but 43 people coming to the dinner. So far. You do the math. 🙂 If last year’s party was any measure, it should be quite an event. If you’ve never done tequila shots with an 80-year-old toothless Mayan great grandmother, you haven’t experienced a true Mexican Christmas.

We also have the joy of having our son Christopher coming from San Diego (where he attends grad school at UCSD) to spend Christmas with us. All in all, it looks like it’s going to be a wonderful December. We’ll keep you posted on all the happenings and events.

Happy Holidays, and hope you like the video.

Posted in The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 11 Comments »