There was no champagne, no hugs and kisses, no ball dropping on TV, but it was a memorable New Year’s Eve nonetheless. I had been invited to spend yesterday evening with some expat friends playing games and likely toasting wine or champagne at midnight. It’s what I would have preferred, but I felt it was important to spend last night with my host family. New Year here is a much bigger holiday than Christmas, and Moises and Julieta were excited about the fireworks in the street at midnight.
It ended up being a quiet evening, just the family and me. Ana spent hours in the kitchen preparing many different, special dishes of food. I had spent part of the day making banana and mango fritters (over a coal fire) and no-bake chocolate cookies that Moises had loved at Christmas and requested more of. In the evening I visited with Julieta on the porch while she made cake after cake. Then Moises and I watched a Michael Jackson concert on TV. Yes, Michael Jackson – his Dangerous tour from the 90s. (It reminded me a bit of watching Don Johnson’s commentary of the Superbowl on satellite TV in England last year.)
Finally we ate at 11pm. There was rice, two different chicken dishes, spaghetti with chunks of beef, some December greens cooked with coconut and dried shrimp, and mangoes and bottled soft drinks. It wasn’t bad, but it was hard to stomach all that (and yes, I had to eat it all so as not to offend) at such a late hour.
At midnight I was disappointed – but not as much as Moises – that we didn’t have any of our own fireworks to set off. However, Moises joined his friends on the street outside the apartment while Julieta, Ana, and I went to the roof of their building and watched others’ fireworks being set off across the city. None were spectacular, but they were all over the city helping to create a sense of communal celebration as everyone’s music and voices and fireworks mingled in the air.
It was also just the beginning of the celebration in my family’s household. We returned to the apartment where another meal awaited us. We sang and prayed together to give thanks for the New Year and then dug into two cakes, fritters, no-bake cookies, other cookies, grilled chicken, potato salad, and more soft drinks. We ate the cake first then Ana said, “Have some chicken.” I kind of laughed and said, “After cake?” Her look told me yes, indeed after cake; when else would you eat it? And so I did. And so we ate until 1:30 am.
I was full. I felt slightly sick. But I was happy. It was a good start to the New Year. A good start to 2008 spent in Mozambique.