Each November, the academic year slowly comes to a halt about the same time that we in the USA celebrate Thanksgiving – but, Thanksgiving is a distinctly US tradition. In El Salvador, high schools hold graduation ceremonies and the kids say goodbye to their teachers and friends for a couple of months. Since the Salvadoran calendar was originally set to promote the sugar cane and coffee harvests, the Salvadoran summer vacation runs from mid-November until January when they return to start a new academic year.
For some kids at COAR, this is a time when they can temporarily leave our facilities in the care and under the supervision of Court approved relatives. Whether parents, grandparents, uncles or cousins, family members can petition the Court for permission to assume responsability for the kids during the Christmas season. Each year, some kids are able to spend the holidays with family. But, there are other kids who simply never have that opportunity. For them, COAR tries to make the Christmas holidays as special as possible.
We recreate the Posadas (Latin American tradition recreating Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter). We hold Christmas parties with Santa and friends bearing gifts. And, we try to get the kids “off campus” if possible on special field trips to places that they never get to visit during the normal year.
This past December (2015), we were able to take all of the kids who were staying at COAR over the holidays to a local circus. According to the director, the kids had a great time. You can see that in their faces! While a circus may not be the 1st thing that comes to mind when thinking about Christmas vacation, remember that in El Salvador, November and December are their summer months when the skies are blue and rain free and temperatures range from the high 80s to low 90s – every day! To Salvadorans, a “white Christmas” is only something that they can see in the movies.