It takes some getting used to when holiday celebrations change.
In Venezuela you get Monday and Tuesday off for Mardi Gras, a.k.a. Carnavales. However, people love taking “bridges” and even miss out on work or school since the Friday or even Thursday before the holiday. During the marvelous, long weekend, most Venezuelans choose to roast their skin at their favorite beach. From La Guaira (~1hr drive from Caracas*) or Rio Chico (~2hr drive from Caracas*) to Morrocoy (~8hr drive from Caracas*) to Margarita Island (~40 min flight from La Guaira), all of these places are sure to have events tailored for every traveller. Plazas and basically any other public areas flood with children in costumes. Kids (and adults) playing their “carnaval” haunt both the beach-goers and the stay-at-homers. Egg-throwing and water-ballooning are amongst the most popular mischievous activities. But it’s ok, dances and parades all over the streets, malls, and public areas drown all other activities with their booming music.
Once back from the quick break, everything (and every one) lags. Mardi Gras is long enough for people to give into their favorite vacation excesses, but too short to really recover from it all. Probably the only motivation that keeps people going after Mardi Gras is the fact that in just 40 days you get a whole week off (plus the Friday before)!
In Albuquerque, Mardi Gras passes as that one holiday with where people parade the streets of New Orleans or as the big show-day in Brazil with scantily-clad dancers. Mardi Gras may not be as big in Venezuela as it is in these places, but it is still a part of our culture. At least at UNM I got to make my own mask and I got free beaded necklaces! The event the SUB people put up was sweet and enjoyable nonetheless. Oh and there was free food, too!
“Semana Santa” (Holy Week) spans the 7 days before Easter Sunday. During this time most Venezuelans make yet another pilgrimage to their favorite beach. There’s more of the dancing, and sometimes even more of the costume parties for children. In brief, it is basically a week-long Mardi Gras, sans “carnaval games.” This also takes on the role of our Spring Break.
From living in Albuquerque, I have learned to make the most out of my Spring Break, even if it means going at it sans beach (it still feels pretty tragic, guys). Ever since I found out about New Mexico’s wonderful variety of hot springs, Spring Break without the Caribbean doesn’t seem so bad after all. This year I went camping for a few days with some friends up in Jemez! I experienced the coldest temperatures I ever slept through out in the open (about 34 Fahrenheit), and it was only my second time ever making s’mores and all those camping goodies. We also made it to the San Antonio hot springs, which will always be by far my favorite hot springs. This time we didn’t take the usual 10-mile round-trip hike. Instead we did only 2.5 miles! The catch was the last .5 miles of the hike meant going down an icy cliff.
Regardless of the place, I always enjoy a good holiday, though I do miss some of the customs back home!
*Estimated travel time given for optimal, lab-like conditions for which there is no traffic.