A Christmas Away From Home

Posted by Tim Piergalski
December 30, 2010
People Walk Next to Christmas Lights in Mexico

About the Author: Tim Piergalski serves as Vice Consul at the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, Mexico.

The holiday season in Monterrey is a bit strange for a diplomat from Chicago. Sure, there are the gaudy Christmas trees on the medians of the major thoroughfares, the Christmas advertising jingles on the radio, and the commercial binge that we're used to, but sweating while eating outside on Thanksgiving and barbecuing on Christmas aren't things that are usually in my holiday repertoire. Where was all the snow?

I suppose snow isn't something one should expect to find in this region during any season, even though Monterrey often seems very American. But for someone who had never experienced a warm Christmas, I found the pre-Christmas buildup to be quite different. Normally a procrastinator, I outdid myself this year -- and I don't think it's entirely my fault. The natural cues were all missing. In every place I'd previously lived, 85 degrees and sunny meant that I had at least three months before I should start Christmas shopping. In Monterrey, it meant that if your packages hadn't already been shipped, they would arrive late. Highs of 50 or so and trying to find where I had put my sweaters last spring usually means that I have a month before I should start shopping. I'm still waiting for that cue. So, as I excused myself for procrastinating and instead went running in the fantastic weather, Christmas snuck up on me.

It did not, however, sneak up on the consulate. We held a holiday party two weeks prior. Many of the officers went home for the actual holiday, as children are not currently permitted at post due to the security situation. However, for those who stayed, the Christmas barbeque filled them with cheer. Arrachera (flank steak) was the main attraction, augmented by grilled peppers, a barbequed chicken dip, and some homemade eggnog. It finally did feel like Christmas -- even if it also felt like July!

Related Content: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hosts "Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays" event for the families and loved ones of State Department employees serving on unaccompanied tours.

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