This was our first Christmas completely away from family. It was a little bit emotional for us especially when we Skyped with our grandchildren. We really miss them. But let me start at the beginning of the season with our Belize Mission party.
All of the missionaries in Belize gathered together at the Radisson Hotel in Belize to have a big Christmas dinner and party with our mission president, President Hintze, his wife and his assistants who all came in from San Salvador for the occasion. There are 50 Elders and Sisters and 5 senior couples serving in Belize. We sang Christmas carols for which I played the keyboard for accompaniment. They had prepared a video presentation using some of the church videos of the Christmas story which was really nice. We had a very nice meal and then played some games which the AP's had prepared. The Hintze's had made up gift packages for all the Elders and Sisters and they had brought packages from the missionaries' families that had arrived in El Salvador. They also had made up special T-shirts for all of us. After the program and dinner, most of the young Elders and Sisters were allowed to change into P-day clothes and put on their T-shirts to play games. The seniors didn't change, however. It was a lot of fun with all the exhuberance practically exploding from that many young missionaries, kind of hard to contain in a small area. Each district prepared a skit or other talent that they presented after dinner. They were pretty funny. Some had quite a bit of talent. One elder wrote his own song and sang it while accompanying himself on the guitar.
Later that week we attended the Belize City Branch's Christmas Party. There was quite a turnout. The Primary had a special dinner for the children before the adult party so they wouldn't have to wait so long to eat.
At the official party, Elder Moulton, the Second Councilor in the Mission Presidency, gave a short Christmas message. The Moultons are the other senior couple here in Belize City. Every auxilliary prepared a talent. The RS did a really cute version of the 12 days of Christmas, several others sang (even a set of missionaries) and the Primary had a cute song and skit.
On Monday before Christmas, the Moultons took all of the Belize City District to lunch for our own party. We went to a local chinese food restaurant because Elder Yim (who is of chinese ancestry but is from Hawaii) can speak chinese and he wanted to talk to the owner to try to set up a time to teach him and his family. I think he had a good visit with the owner in Chinese and it was productive. The food there is quite good.
Christmas Day was a busy one for us since we had invited two of the missionary couples to come to our house for dinner. The Moultons had gone to San Pedro on Caye Ambergris to be with the four elders on the island to give them access to their computer so they could Skype with their families. The Mendenhalls are assigned to the Belmopan area which is about 60 miles inland from us and the Rinderknechts are in San Ignacio which is about 40 miles farther west from Belmopan very close to the Guatemalan border. We were at the MTC with the Rinderknechts.
We had a really nice dinner. Sister Tague made a wonderful sweet potato souffle that is becoming a traditional Tague family recipe that Danielle makes. It was a super hit with everyone. We also roasted game hens with stuffing, our family tradition for Christmas. They were fabulous if I do say so myself. We also made mashed potatoes and gravy. The Mendenhalls brought vegetables, corn and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and cranberry sauce. The Rinderknechts brought homemade bread and chocolate cake. Sister Tague also made a Ho Ho Cake that is just like Hostess Ho Ho's. It was an amazing meal with great company. They all had to leave fairly early since it is a long drive to their homes but we will definitely be doing something like this again.
Most of the morning was spent cooking and Skyping with our family. It was kind of emotional for us to see the kids and not be able to be with them. We were a little teary-eyed. We do miss them, especially at times like these but what a blessing that we are able to Skype and actually see them. They showed us all their presents and it was a lot of fun to share their excitement.
So we made it through our first major holiday all by ourselves out here in Belize. The Belizeans love Christmas and decorate thier houses quite profusely. Here are some pictures of Belize at Christmas.