Writer’s Note: Thanksgiving has passed and the decorations are going up fast. With the holiday spirit in full swing, we are taking the time at La Vida Latina to offer options for unique gifts this holiday season. In part II of our series we speak with a man who decided to put presents aside and hasn’t looked back.
Unique gifts for the Holidays
Part II of V
One man’s tale on how he made a cliché come true
Ivan Vargas had thought about it for years.
“I’m the cliché guy that always says Christmas isn’t about presents, but about spending time with others,” he said remembering his decision to change the dynamic of Christmas in his family for good. “For about 10 years, ever since my youngest was 9 and moving past Santa, I wanted to take the family back to where I celebrated my first two Christmases in Mexico.”
Vargas’ family moved to Arizona when he was 3 from Apaxtla, Guerrero – by his description a small town in northern Guerrero – and he had only returned by himself or with his wife on two other occasions.
“I had taken the kids to Mexico, but to more of the touristy parts of the country,” he said. “I had never taken them back to where I grew up. My parents stayed (in the United States) and we don’t have family there. But I thought it would be fun to take them to a traditional Mexican Christmas with la pastorela, las posadas and all the traditional food.”
The catch, however, was a vacation to Mexico isn’t cheap, especially for a family of five to a non-resort town like Apaxtla. Vargas would have to put his “clichéd” personality to the test and take the presents out of Christmas.
“Dream come true,” he laughed. “I think there are a lot of people out there like me who have come from humble homes and then watched as their kids grow to be consumers. I know I’m part of the problem because I do overindulge them with the things I never had, but it went too far. I felt like it was time to pull back on the reigns.”
According to Vargas the vacation was different than he had planned and in many ways he discovered as much about himself as he did about his family. Vargas said that it was similar to camping.
“The kids struggled without wifi or a strong cell reception, as did I,” he said. “It was tough not to pull up my fantasy roster or check my work email.”
It was the youngest of the three Vargas children, Ronnie (9-years-old at the time), who kept things in perspective.
“He was fascinated by the lights, the trees, all the festive decorations that you only get in Mexico,” he said. “When we went to city center, he was entranced. For a little town, they went all out with the decorating it was beautiful.”
Most importantly, Santa was mostly absent.
“I know Santa is celebrated in some way the world round, but his presence is drastically diminished in Mexican villages,” he said. “For me, that was the greatest gift of all.”
The trip was three years ago and Vargas said he hasn’t looked back taking his family on similar present-less vacations to Orlando and Dallas. This year, he says, he’s planning something very special.
“I think my favorite Christmas carol is the Hawaiian Christmas song (Mele Kalikimaka),” he said. “I’m finally giving myself a Hawaiian Christmas. We’re headed to Honolulu.”
Other travel options
Though Apaxtla, Guerrero may not rank high on many travel guides, Travel and Leisure recommends several international destinations that blossom during the holidays. Zurich, Switzerland, Prague and Reykjavík, Iceland all cater to the holidays spirit.
Some domestic hotspots for the holidays include Charleston, South Carolina, Santa Barbara, Calif., and Boston.
For those looking to stay near home, Durango offers a bevy of festive options. According to Travel and Leisure the mountain town in southern Colorado offers a festive atmosphere with lots of recreational options as well as cinematic nostalgia. The Rochester Hotel, for example, has 15 rooms that recall a locally produced movie.