By some estimates, up to 85 percent of Panama is Catholic. We live just a few minutes from the impressive Apostolic Nunciature in Clayton (state funded and a bit controversial here). World Youth Day is set for Panama in January of 2019.

Every housing complex, government office, local mall and even parks have nativity displays. Many are on a grand scale. Some churches have huge nativity displays.

Red and white might be predominant Christmas colors in the U.S., but in Panama it seems the one of the most Christmas-y of colors is blue. Blue lights, blue decorations, blue ribbons…

Our housing complex is planning a live nativity reenactment with neighborhood children and there will be a pilgrimage around the complex. (We will be in the U.S so we will miss it.)

There is a local park advertising a nativity with a live birth on Saturday. I’m hoping something was lost in the translation because I’m not so sure how they are going to make that happen.

There is no doubt that Christmas in all its religious glory is THE holiday in Panama.

And if I didn’t understand that before, I knew it after I had to explain Hanukkah to an 8-year-old daughter of a friend. She had never heard of it.

I know there is a Jewish community here in Panama. But unless you are in that specific part of the city, you would have no idea it exists. No menorahs, no “Happy Hanukkah!” signs, no evidence of any other religion or holiday.

I miss it. I miss my California with signs of Hanukkah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, etc. I miss my friends and family who celebrate differently than I do and are willing to share it with me (some latkes would not be remiss here).

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