Visiting Korean organist

Prof. Byong-Suk Moon, concert organist

Visiting Korean organist… that was the title of an email message I received in early November last year. It was from the Rev. Brian Grieves, an Episcopal priest I had worked with at the Church of the Holy Nativity some forty years ago!

An organist friend from Korea, Byong-Suk Moon, will be visiting Hawaii in the latter part of January and asked for assistance in setting up an organ recital which will take place on Sunday, January 28, 2018 at 5:00 pm at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu.

In looking over Prof. Moon’s resumé, we decided that his diploma and his experience at the Musikhochschule in Detmold, Germany would mesh well with the Beckerath organ at LCH. In addition to being Professor and Chairman of the organ department at Catholic University in Seoul, Korea, Moon is the concertmaster at Myeondong Cathedral of the Catholic Diocese of Korea. He won the Diploma prize at Magdeburg International Organ Competition; second prize at the Wiesbaden Bach Preis International Organ Competition; and second prize at the Dom Zu Speyer International Organ Competition—all in Germany. In addition he won first prize at the Wolgan Music Journal competition in Seoul, Korea.

The program will include:

Offertory from the Mass for the Parishes, François Couperin (1668-1733)
Organ Concerto in D minor, BWV 596, J. S. Bach (1685-1750)
From Eleven Chorale Preludes, op. 122, Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
No. 4 Herzlich tut mich erfreuen
No. 5 Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele
Organ improvisation, Nearer my God to thee, op. 75, Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)
Final from Organ Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911)

Professor Moon is thought by some to be Korea’s foremost organist today. We are indeed fortunate that he will be in Hawaii and will be giving a free organ recital! Here is a video clip I found of him on YouTube:

Pipe organs in Korea began to be built after the Korean War as students began coming to the United States and Germany, countries that “offered organ curricula and good instruments to play,” according to Jay Zoller, who wrote an article in the  Diapason magazine about pipe organs in South Korea, 2011. “As time went on, students who returned to South Korea wanted similar instruments to play at home and often were able to have their church buy an organ from a builder that they had become acquainted with during their studies. Since there were no Korean organbuilders, they imported organs from the United States and Germany. Seoul, South Korea’s largest city, has the greatest number of pipe organs in the country,” where Wicks, Brombaugh, Flentrop, Schuke, Rieger-Kloss, Ruffati, Beckerath, Karl Wilhelm, Jäger & Brommer, Bosch, Pels and Van Leeuwen, Klais have built instruments.

Here is some pictures of the Rudolf von Beckerath organ at Hanshin Presbyterian Church in Seoul, completed in 2016.

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And here is the Beckerath organ for the Heavenly Dream Methodist Church at Incheon, South Korea.

Beckerath organ at Heavenly Dream Methodist, Incheon, South Korea (2008)

Hope you can come to Byong-Suk Moon’s free organ recital on Sunday, January 28th—a Korean organist on a Beckerath organ!


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Blissfully unaware

You may have heard that last Saturday, the state of Hawaii was thrown into a panic when a missile alert threat was sent to mobile phones, with this ominous message:

Weeks ago, residents were warned that if a missile came from North Korea, people in Hawaii would have approximately 12-13 minutes notice before nuclear destruction.

In the 38 minutes which followed the alert, people made frantic calls to their loved ones, assuring them of their love, while hunkering down in bathtubs and other supposedly “safer” places to wait out an attack. It all turned out to be a false alarm, with the explanation that “someone hit the wrong button.”

Me? I was blissfully unaware of all of this. Shortly before 8:00 am, I went out on my daily walk through the streets of downtown Honolulu. I did carry my phone with me, but never heard any alarms—my phone never sounded. The streets were virtually empty of cars and pedestrians, and I did not hear any civil defense sirens. I thought nothing was out of the ordinary. I even stopped at Walmart to buy some blueberries, which was on my route home, and nothing was unusual.

It was not until I got home and turned on the television, and saw that Hawaii was in the news. The fingerpointing already began an hour after the false alarm, and some Hawaii Emergency Management personnel have received death threats! My question was why my phone never received the alert—I checked my settings to make sure that “Amber Alerts” and “Emergency Alerts” were turned on, and everything seemed fine. So, I don’t know what happened and why my phone did not sound the alarm.

Back at Punahou School

In the week that I returned from Mexico, my sister and her husband came for a visit and I was able to spend a whole day sightseeing with them. Surprisingly, I also received a call from the chapel office at Punahou School and played chapel there Wednesday and Thursday, and was engaged to play there two more times this month. Thursday and Friday I also taught eight organ lessons. So you could say that things are getting back to my normal “retired” life.

Jace Saplan, director

Last night I attended the Nā Wai Chamber Choir winter concert at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. Established in 2009, Nā Wai “is a women’s vocal ensemble that celebrates the works of women, preserves and propagates Native Hawaiian music, and champions repertoire for treble voices … an incredible group of women who gather together to empower, inspire, and thrive through the highest level of artistry.” Their director is Jace Saplan, who is Assistant Professor of Music at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, and a doctoral candidate in choral conducting studying with Dr. Karen Kennedy at the University of Miami Frost School of Music.

Nā Wai Chamber Choir

My student, Steven Severin, played the organ.

I was already looking forward to the Missa Brevis, by Lithuanian composer Vytautas Miškinis, which my organ student, Steven Severin, had brought the music to his last lesson. The Missa Brevis was interspersed with music by Hawaiian composers and readings from Hawaiian activist Dana Naone Hall. The whole concert was very peaceful and more like a worship service, as there was no applause until the very end.

They ended the concert with Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria, which to my ears was choral perfection, beautiful intonation, blend and sensitivity. See if you don’t agree!






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Music for The Crown

I have been home from Mexico for four days now, and sorry to say, I’ve been sick. I don’t know if it was the change in weather, or the fact that several of my family members were sick, but I got it too. Shortly after arriving in Mexico, I started sneezing—many times a day, a lot! People asked me whether it was allergies, or whether I was sick. Then my nose started dripping, like a leaky faucet. Now that it has been a couple weeks, I’m afraid it’s the common cold. Luckily I have had no fever or sore throat, just a lot of congestion and conjunctivitis.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the German Vespers at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu on Saturday night, and gave up my ticket to the Hawaii Symphony concert yesterday. I just didn’t want to cough and spread my germs during the service or the concert. Yuck!

Hans Zimmer

Outside from taking down all the Christmas decorations, I’ve been mostly just laying around, hunkered in front of the TV and binge-watching my favorite series at the moment, “The Crown” on Netflix. What is so mesmerizing about the program, I believe, in addition to the storyline and superb acting, is the music for the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer.

Zimmer is a prolific composer who has composed music for over 150 films. According to Wikipedia, “His works include The Lion King, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1995, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Thin Red LineGladiatorThe Last Samurai, and The Dark Knight Trilogy.”

Surprisingly, Zimmer says that the full extent of his musical training was two weeks of piano lessons, which he hated because of the discipline. Other than that, he is completely self-taught.

“My formal training was 2 week(s) of piano lessons. I was thrown out of 8 schools. But I joined a band. I am self-taught. But I’ve always heard music in my head. And I’m a child of the 20th century; computers came in very handy…My mother was very musical, basically a musician and my father was an engineer and an inventor. So, I grew up modifying the piano, shall we say, which made my mother gasp in horror, and my father would think it was fantastic when I would attach chainsaws and stuff like that to the piano because he thought it was an evolution in technology.” In an interview with the German television station ZDF in 2006, he commented: “My father died when I was just a child, and I escaped somehow into the music and music has been my best friend.”

Director and producer Ridley Scott says, “I listen to [Zimmer’s] music and I don’t even have to shut my eyes. I can see the pictures. And that’s why, in many respects, I know I can talk pictures with Hans. He responds to pictures.”

I think what is so riveting about the opening theme music is that it is just a series of simple chord progressions: Dminor – Gminor – C – F – D – G – A – Dminor. According to Andrea Towers, “Netflix’s new historical drama series The Crown has a theme song worthy of a show about royals. In the opening credits of the series, which debuted Nov. 4, a haunting orchestral tune plays over a montage of artistic shots that eventually come together to create a brass crown and a chandelier.”

Here are some comments which have been posted on YouTube:

Regal yes, but his genius gives us the undercurrent touch of sadness portrayed in the series. Masterful. (Simon Bedden)

The Power of this arrangement is amazing…puts me into such a deep thought. (Randall Gates)

Apparently the theme was inspired by an aria by Henry Purcell, “What power art thou.” Here’s a video of Andreas Scholl singing this:

If you haven’t yet watched the “The Crown,” I highly recommend it! You, too, will love the music!

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The Three Kings

In an earlier post, I took a photo of a family posing with the Three Kings instead of Santa Claus (because the Three Kings bring gifts), just another example of the Catholic Church’s influence upon life in Mexico. Well, here is my family taking its turn for this holiday tradition. We were at one of the major shopping malls when we found the photo booth with the Three Kings.

The Crosier family with the Three Kings, Querétaro, Mexico.

Another delightful tradition is the eating of Three Kings cake, Rosca de reyes, which is eaten on January 6 to celebrate Epiphany.

I saw Three Kings cake in bakery shop windows.

It is traditionally eaten on January 6, during the celebration of the Día de Reyes (literally “Kings’ Day”), which commemorates the arrival of the three Magi or Wise Men. In most of Spain, Spanish America, and sometimes, Hispanic communities in the United States, this is the day when children traditionally get presents, which are attributed to the Three Wise Men (and not Santa Claus or Father Christmas). In Spain before children go to bed, they leave a dish filled with biscuits and a few glasses of water for the three wise men and the camels they ride on.” (Wikipedia)

A plastic figure of Baby Jesus is baked inside the cake. Here’s what I found in Wikipedia: “The baby Jesus hidden in the bread represents the flight of the Holy Family, fleeing from King Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents. Whoever finds the baby Jesus figurine is blessed and must take the figurine to the nearest church on February 2 (Candlemas Day, Día de la Candelaria). In the Mexican culture, this person has the responsibility of hosting a dinner and providing tamales and atole to the guests.”

As it turned out, the family met at a restaurant on New Year’s Day to eat brunch and they had slices of Three Kings cake on the tables. My daughter-in-law Jessica was cutting the cake, and asked if I wanted a piece. “Sure!”

And then as I bit into the cake, I felt something hard in my mouth. You guessed it! I got the “baby Jesus!” (Except it sure didn’t look like a baby!) I was afraid everyone was going to make me pay for everybody for the brunch, but luckily, it was Dutch treat (about 15 people).

I got the Baby Jesus in the Three Kings cake!

I’ve already written about the many examples of the Nativity used as Christmas decorations in Mexico, usually displayed from December 12 through February 2nd (Presentation of Jesus in the Temple). Here is the nativity scene at the Holiday Inn Express, next door to my hotel.

Nativity scene at the next door Holiday Inn Express.

In researching Mexican Christmas traditions I also found out that the poinsettia originated in Mexico! They are called “noche buena,” the same words for Christmas Eve, and modern tradition says that the colorful flowers were presented to the Baby Jesus.

We fly back to Los Angeles tomorrow, and then it’s back to reality in Hawaii.

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Eating grapes etc.

Welcome, 2018!

It was about six minutes to midnight, and fifteen of us stood around the dinner table. Every single person picked up his or her phone (because there was no clock in the dining room!) and waited for the countdown. Outside was quiet in this Mexican neighborhood, with only an occasional pop from fireworks far away.

As the time drew closer, everyone picked up a cup filled with 12 grapes…tres, dos, uno! Feliz año nuevo! Happy New Year! 

Apparently the eating of 12 grapes at midnight is a Spanish custom which only originated in 1909 when there was a glut of grapes and growers were anxious to unload them.

“The tradition consists of eating a grape with each bell strike at midnight of December 31. According to the tradition, that leads to a year of prosperity. In some areas, it is believed that the tradition wards away witches and general evil, although this “magic” is treated like an old heritage, and in modern days it’s viewed as a cultural tradition to welcome the new year.” (Wikipedia)

I had read up on this custom ahead of time and was a little fearful of choking if I had to eat one grape per second! Thankfully, my daughter-in-law’s family didn’t follow this timeline, and we took our time to finish the 12 grapes, representing prosperity for 12 months of the new year.

Right after eating the grapes, everyone got a hug and a kiss, first from the person standing next to you, and then one by one, everyone got a hug, in a kind of do-si-do dance procession.

By the way, I also read that you are supposed to wear colorful underwear! On Fodor’s 12 Weird New Year’s Eve Traditions Around the World, I read that in Latin American countries such as Mexico, Bolivia and Brazil, the color of your panties determines what kind of year you’ll have. Red will bring love and romance while yellow will lead to wealth and success. White represents peace and harmony and green signifies well-being and nature.

Tonight we met with my daughter-in-law’s paternal relatives who had driven from Mexico City in three cars for baby Andrés’ baptism on December 30. I had already been warned that we would not be eating until midnight, just as we did for Christmas Eve. We met at a cousin’s house whose family was away for the holidays, so all the dishes were served on plastic so as not to mess up the kitchen.

La pierna (roasted pork)

The first course was two types of pasta, one with a red sauce, and the other with a mildly spicy green sauce—I guessed that it represented long life.

The main dish was “La Pierna,” a rolled roasted pork, a typical New Year’s entrée. It had a ground almond filling.

Another typical dish was “bacalao,” a dried cod dish in a tomato sauce. I have eaten this in previous holidays, as prepared by my son’s mother-in-law who has come to California for the last two Christmases. The dried cod becomes tender when hydrated, and is stewed with chiles and green olives. Everyone was amazed at my son Stephen, who ate the whole chile used to season the dish (Yes, it was very spicy!)

Bacalao, served over rice. We ate it as a side dish, without the rice.


Another dish which was served was Romeritos, which reminded me so much of the Hawaiian lau lau, except that it contained shrimp instead of butterfish. Here’s a quick definition: Romeritos is a Mexican dish, consisting of sprigs of a plant known as Romerito that looks like rosemary, therefore its name. Usually served with nopal, dried shrimp and potatoes in a mole sauce.

I left the party about 2:15 am, and I don’t know how long the rest of the family stayed up. It seems like the Mexicans are night owls, for sure!

Goodbye, 2017!




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A Mexican baptism and fiesta

I tried to find out why baptisms are such a big deal in Mexico and found out that it is all because of tradition! It is not only the child’s entrance into the faith community but is also an opportunity to celebrate the family—in other words, it is an excuse for a fiesta! (party!)

Because the church would not confirm the arrangements until a few days before, only close family attended the actual baptism of Andrés Crosier. Both my son and daughter-in-law had to attend baptism classes and present their certificates of achievement to the priest. They also had to show the certificates of their own baptism and even though I searched for months, I simply could not locate Stephen’s, and finally had to contact the LCH for a letter of acknowledgement, which Pastor Jeff was happy to oblige.

Even though the short ceremony was all in Spanish, it was easy enough to follow along. At one point it was obvious when all were saying the Lord’s Prayer, but of course my Spanish isn’t quite that far along in order for me to participate.

Just as in Hawaii for weddings, it seems like the focus of the day was the reception rather than the church ceremony. I could see that the party was not only to celebrate Andrés’ baptism but also to introduce Stephen to Jessica’s friends and family, since they only had a civil wedding three years ago rather than a church wedding.

We got to the party venue about 1:00 pm to decorate and set up, the guests started arriving about 2:00 pm, and the party did not end until well after 10:00 pm!

The Hawaiian shortbread cookies and chocolate macadamia candy I brought from Hawaii were a huge hit and were devoured in a matter of minutes!

In addition to the snack table, there was also a taco station which included pork, chicken and beef for tacos and quesadillas. We also had corn on the cob, brushed with mayonnaise, cheese and chili. As you can see below, I passed on the chili!

What was a little weird was that when the people in the neighborhood were seeing that we were having a party, vendors showed up uninvited to sell their wares! I took a picture of a girl selling cotton candy.

The real hero of the day, though, was baby Andrés, who was sociable and smiling throughout, from 11:30 am, the time of the baptism, to the very end of the party after 10 pm. You see, he is naturally gregarious and loves people and aside from a few brief moments when he napped, he was a happy, happy baby, always alert and cheerful, I would guess that he was held by more than 50 different people throughout the day in a giant “Pass the baby!”

It was a great day for the Martinez, Palomar, Au and Crosier families!

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One LONG day in Guanajuato

In yesterday’s one day visit to Guanajuato, here are the numbers:

  • 5. The types of vehicles I rode in: private car, taxi, 15-passenger van, city bus, and private luxury bus.
  • 10. Number of places I visited. This included 5 churches, 4 organs, a state theatre, a mountain top statue, a horror museum, an abandoned gold mine, and a jewelry store.
  • 4.4. Number of miles I walked
  • 10,267. Number of steps I took
  • 53. Number of flights I climbed. This included 160 meters of very steep and treacherous steps DOWN and UP in the mine.
  • 23. The number of hours from time of waking until I got back to my hotel to sleep

Oh, my aching feet and tired body!

As I was thinking about the day I was planning to spend with my youngest brother, his wife, my niece and her husband, I woke up at 3:48am in anticipation of an interesting day, and never got back to sleep, knowing the alarm was going to sound at 6:15 and my son was going to take me to the central bus station at 7:00 am.

It was a little more than a two hour ride to Guanajuato, a World Heritage site with a history rich with mining. From Wikipedia:

Mining had been done in this area long before the Spanish arrived. Late in the pre-Hispanic period the Aztecs had a presence here, specifically to look for metals to make ornamental objects for their political and religious elite. Some stories from this time state that the area was so rich in minerals that nuggets of gold could be picked up from the ground.

We began our visit to the Teatro Juarez, rated #1 of 76 things to do in Guanajuato by TripAdvisor. One reviewer wrote: It just takes your breath away… built between 1873 and 1903… inaugurated by President Don Porfirio Diaz a magnificent architectural icon… it just takes your breath away…

Although the short tour we took was all in Spanish, my sister-in-law Sandra translated enough of the guide’s remarks for us to get the gist.

Of the five churches we visited certainly one of the most memorable was Templo Valenciana, (San Cayetano) with three highly decorated and gilded altars. It was located just next to a gold mine which certainly made it convenient to get all that gold! It was built by Antonio de Ordóñez y Alcocer, the owner of the mine, to give thanks to his patron saint, Saint Cajetan, for the riches the mine provided.

Two of the organs we saw were installed facing the side wall which I told my family was “wrong,” as they should have been turned to sound into the long axis of the room. Unfortunately we did not hear any of them.

We also visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalajara, the Templo de San Diego, and the Templo de la Compania.

We took a tour via 15-passenger van to the top of the mountain overlooking the city where we saw a large statue, Monumento al Pipila, and an absolutely spectacular view of the colorful city below.

Another stop was at the House of Laments or Casa de los lamentos. This mansion was the house of a serial killer active during the 1890s through the 1910s named Tadeo Fulgencío Mejía. After his wife Constanza died in an assault, Tadeo Mejía became unhinged. In the 1890s, his delusional attempts to contact his dead spouse lead to a murderous spree in which he mummified his victims. It’s said that the groans and shrieks of Mejía’s victims still echo through the mansion where his sinister deeds were carried out.

Wouldn’t you believe it, there was an exhibit of a scary guy at an organ playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor!

Our last stop was at the abandoned gold mine next to La Valenciana, and you can see that everyone had to wear hard hats. The steep steps going down but especially up, were a definite challenge for everyone!

I walked into my hotel room about 1:05 am so it had been an incredibly long day. Tomorrow is baby Andrés’ baptism!

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Sushi … in Mexico?

Fried manchego cheese cubes which we dipped into katsu sauce. Delicious! just not Japanese!

Of all people I am the last person who should write a restaurant review.

Oh, it is true that I have eaten the most delicious and diverse food in some of the world’s top restaurants—most notably Wagyu beef in Tokyo, croissants in Paris, Belgian waffles in Brussels, paella in Barcelona and goulash in Budapest.

And for 37 years, my husband Carl prepared incredibly delicious and beautifully-presented gourmet meals which I enjoyed immensely—that is, until the year 2000. You may remember that it was the winter of 1999 that we had spent in England, attending the Nine Lessons and Carols at Kings College in Cambridge. I put a lot of lotion on my skin because it was so dry while I was there.

But when I returned home, and for the next 4-5 months, I was absolutely besieged with terrible allergies. I would wake up in the middle of the night with horrific allergy attacks, sneezing 150+ times in a row, my nose and throat filled with phlegm, and I was unable to breathe unless I was standing over a pot of boiling water. This happened night after night, usually about 2 in the morning, when finally Carl, exasperated, told me, “Your allergies are disrupting our life style!”

Those were the respiratory ailments I had, not to mention the skin allergies which attacked me at the same time. Every time I ate a meal, I broke out in hives—and this process would repeat itself every day for at least a month. I thought at first I was allergic to strawberries, because 20 minutes after I ate them, hives appeared. The same happened whenever I ate cheese.

I finally had to consult an allergist. She thought my allergies were caused by scabies, an itchy, highly contagious skin disease caused by an infestation by the itch mite Sarcoptes scabie, and gave me an ointment to put on my arms and legs. Wrong! Not only did I not have scabies, I was allergic to the ointment and got worse. My doctor finally figured out that I was allergic to wool and lanolin. When I was in England, it turned out that it was the wool blankets that I was allergic to, as well as the lotions containing lanolin—a byproduct of sheep.

My skin was also inflamed in the area of where my bra straps were touching my chest and my back. Diagnosis: nickel allergy. So I changed to undergarments with plastic fasteners.

Finally when I underwent allergy tests, I found out I was allergic to just about everything, but especially to molds and mildews, as well as to pollen from flowers like mock orange (abundant in Hawaii). We were told to install air conditioning in our bedroom, and to use hypoallergenic covers on our pillows and mattress.

When I finally was prescribed nasal sprays containing steroids, that did the trick! My allergies completely dried up, and I was able to resume a normal life. But the price I paid was that I lost my sense of smell, as well as my sense of taste. Oh, I can taste whether something is salty or spicy, but that’s about it. Once when we were served a scoop each of chocolate and vanilla ice cream I told Carl that I couldn’t tell the difference! However, don’t feel too sorry for me—I still enjoy food because I have a good memory of what something is supposed to taste like!

If you can imagine, all this happened in the run-up to our ground-breaking performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in the spring of 2000. I’ll never forget it!

Last night, the family went out to a Mexican sushi restaurant. It certainly looked like sushi, but there was no wasabi to mix with the shoyu (soy) sauce— only chilies! There was something resembling katsu sauce, but also chipotle! Some of the sushi had been breaded then put into the deep fryer. So the food looked Japanese, tasted Mexican! I settled for arroz frito, fried rice.

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After dinner, we stopped by a shopping mall to buy baby Andrés some new shoes to wear for the baptism and again, I was amazed by the nativity scenes in a commercial space. My son Stephen stopped to buy a popsicle with Gummi bears (!) and my grandson had his first ride in a toy car, at 6-1/2 months old!

Oh, what an adventure I am having here!






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Mexican family traditions

I’m spending Christmas and New Year’s in Querétaro, Mexico and many people have asked me, where is Querétaro, anyway?— so I thought I’d show you a map.

You can see in the map that it is not far from Mexico City, about 115 miles. It is home to my daughter-in-law’s parents.

What I have discovered is that things are very cheap here! My hotel is about $55/night with a full breakfast buffet included.

Here’s the view from my hotel room:

It’s a beautiful day in Querétaro!

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My son ordered a “Grande Michelada” with shrimp and cucumber in Clamato juice and Mexican beer.

Last night the family (six adults and one infant) went out to a seafood restaurant, and we all had cocktails and seafood entrées (No, not the baby!) and the total bill, including tip, was an amazing $70.

In Mexico it is customary to have a family dinner late on Christmas Eve (Noche Buena). And when I mean late, it means midnight. Yes, aside from a few chips and crackers, we were at a cousin’s house and did not eat the main meal until the clock struck midnight.

My son’s father-in-law took me back to the hotel about 1:30 am, but I understand the rest of the family did not leave until almost 4 am! That included baby Andrés!

Ponche navideño

My daughter-in-law’s aunty made a traditional drink called ponche navideño, which is a hot fruit punch with cane sugar and tejocotes, which look a little like crabapples.

Contrary to traditions in Hawaii, fireworks are a big deal in Mexico for Christmas. You can see in the photo below the family lighting sparklers.

At the mall.

On Christmas Day I was surprised to learn that many stores were open, and in the morning we even went shopping for some of the party goods (yes, they have Sam’s and Walmart here!) for Saturday’s baptism. After the seafood dinner, about 9:30 pm we went to the local mall in search of dessert, and I was very surprised to find the mall filled with people, even though many of the stores were closed.

We didn’t open presents until about 3:00 pm on Christmas afternoon.

One by one the gifts were brought from under the tree, and everyone watched each person open his or her gift with many words of thanks given after each one. If the present was an article of clothing, it was tried on right then and there, with everyone giving their words of approval.

In the days leading up to Christmas, we spent some time sightseeing and visiting Querétaro churches. Here are photos from Santuario de la Congregación de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.

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And here is the Templo de Santa Clara whose ornate and gilded interior was something to behold. I even saw a pipe organ behind a screen.

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A picture I took from the road below.

And I never thought I would see a pyramid in Querétaro, but saw one on the way to my daughter-in-law’s cousin’s house. It’s called “El Cerrito,” and dates from 300 BC.

El Cerrito (Wikipedia)

Querétaro— so many things to see, so little time!

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A Mexican Christmas

I left Honolulu about 12:30 pm on Tuesday and was happy to see that I was upgraded to first class. However, I didn’t get to enjoy too much of it, because right out of the gate, we encountered so much turbulence that I was sure that we were to crash. In fact, the seat belt light stayed lit for three hours straight and the flight attendants could not get up to even get us a drink of water or serve us any food. I overheard one of them saying they had never had a flight like that where they were essentially “grounded” for three hours right out of the gate.

Fortunately, about two hours out from LAX, the turbulence finally passed and we were able to be served. As it turned out, we arrived about half an hour ahead of schedule so I guess those tailwinds really pushed us to an early arrival.

The Burbank High School 50th Class Reunion Committee at Angeles National Golf Club.

I took advantage of my Los Angeles stopover to attend a luncheon meeting of my high school class reunion committee. We joined several family members for an Armenian dinner, then my son Stephen and I were off to Querétaro for a 1:00 am flight via a three hour layover in Houston. We were upgraded on both these flights which was a big relief for my son who is 6’5″ tall and has a hard time fitting into economy seats!

We had no trouble at all at the Hertz rental car counter, as the agent spoke English to us and did not try to sell us unneeded rental car insurance. After a joyful reunion with my daughter-in-law and grandchild who had been in Mexico since right after Thanksgiving, we went out to an authentic taco restaurant, then had a fruit-filled churros for dessert.

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San Miguel Arcángel

The next day we set out for San Miguel de Allende, a World Heritage site about an hour away from Querétaro. It is a popular tourist destination and home to American expatriates, art galleries, cafes, and historical churches. Of course I could not resist going into La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel and of course took a picture of the pipe organ. Unfortunately we did not hear it played.

We also went into another church but stayed only briefly since a mass was going on.

San Miguel Arcángel organ

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Our family picture with a donkey!

I took a picture with grandson Andrés and the donkey’s ears!

After lunch, we stayed around the San Miguel Arcángel and were very fortunate to witness two wedding celebrations. As you can see in the video below, there are two giant bride and groom figures which dance around to mariachi music. At first I thought this was the actual bride and groom dressed up in costumes, but my daughter-in-law told me they are actually two guys.

Roman Catholicism remains the dominant religion in Mexico and there are many outdoor nativity scenes. I took pictures of some of them in San Miguel de Allende as well as those in downtown Querétaro.

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I was very interested to see that children take a photo with the Three Kings (because they bring gifts).

Children take a picture with The Three Kings



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