So begins the Convento de Santa Rosa de Lima house history entry for December 25, 1963. The house historian accurately anticipated our interest in learning more about how the first Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth missioned abroad celebrated Christmas fifty-three years ago. The sisters had been in Peru for just a few months when they celebrated their first Peruvian Christmas. Below you will find lightly edited selections from that entry that reflect both their affection for the people of Peru and their culture shock.
Midnight mass at the sand dunes (Puerto) was quite an experience. When the sisters arrived at the Church, strains of honky-tonk music drifted inside from one of the nearby houses. For once, they enjoyed electric lights because the generator was turned on. (…)
The church was all spruced up and there was a nice crib outside. Baby Jesus rested on the altar during Mass. The choir sang a hymn before Mass, and then Sisters Blanche Marie [Remington] and Dennis Marie [Agnes Klein] held forth with the chants of the high Mass. On the way up to the Communion rail, they stepped carefully to avoid the dogs. (…)
The sisters who went to Mass at Santa Rosa fared a little better, but had their experiences, too. Their choir sang some hymns before Mass, and then the three sisters sang the Proper parts of the High Mass. (…) When it came time to come down from the balcony of the Salon for Communion, the sisters found themselves locked IN. After much consternation the guardian came and unlocked the door, and the sisters and choir went to Communion. When they came back from Communion, the sisters found themselves locked OUT of the choir, so had to wait again until the key was fetched.
The sisters at both places learned quickly that you don’t just wish people a Merry Christmas here, but you must have Feliz Navidad accompanied by an abrazo, that is while the person greeting you shakes hands with the right hand, he or she puts his left arm around your right shoulder, and you are supposed to do the same. (…)
[Christmas Day] we had to go to the Church to help with the distribution of the “hugetties.” This was an indescribable scene. There were at least 500 children … clutching madly at their tickets [given to them in Catechism classes]. There were “hugetties” arranged in the church guarded by numerous members of the Legion of Mary and Catholic Action. Each child had to present his tickets at the door (beginning with the person who had the most tickets), have them counted, and then enter to choose a prize. Shortly the issue of Who-gets-‘em and Who-got-‘em was obscuring the “hugetties.” Even the children with only one ticket got a prize, but anyone with no tickets got nothing; consequently after the distribution was finished, each sister had several ticket-less children and their mothers hanging on begging for a “hugettito” ….
The “hugetty” distribution at Puerto was a bit more orderly, but the town itself was in a carousing state. One man who had an abundance of the Christmas “spirits” came up to greet Sister Dennis Marie [Agnes Klein] very profusely by kissing her hand, etc., at which point Father David and the other sisters were dying laughing, until the man sought them all out and did the very same thing to them.
We had “afternoon prayers” at 6:00 and Compline at 6:45, followed by dinner preparations. The priests arrived for 8:00 dinner at about 8:30. We had a very nice turkey dinner with cranberries, mincemeat pie, and all the customary trimmings. Needless to say, we retired raw-ther late. We entertained the fathers with a song about “huggetties” parodied from “Montana.”
Feliz Navidad from the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Archives!
 Hermanas de Caridad Convento de Santa Rosa de Lima, Talara, Peru House History. Volume 1, 37. Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Archives.
 This is a phonetic spelling of the Spanish word for toys, juguetes.