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About Us • About Jan and Jennie

We had, as we always seem to here in Mexico, a wonderful Christmas again this year. The spirit of giving is so prevalent here, especially among those with whom we associate, but there is one couple who are exceptional: Ron and Arlene, better known as Mr. and Mrs. Santa.

Twenty years ago when they started spending their winters here in Bucerias, they decided that in order to make their Christmas meaningful, they should do something for the poor children of Bucerias.

It started out small, with them driving through the Barrio tossing out candy to children. This they found was too dangerous for the children and so they took to giving them candy and as years went by, presents in a more structured manner.

Originally, everything was purchased with their own money. Two overriding policies were decided early on: one, that all presents for the children must be wrapped and two, that all the presents were to be toys. Children need toys in their lives and while it can be argued that clothes, school supplies, and food are also important, toys were to be the focus.

This small beginning, which up to this year did not even have a formal name – "Bucerias Children's Christmas Program" or logo, has now evolved into a more structured organization with lots of help and donations of funds and toys. Still this has not changed the nature of the Christmas gift giving. It is still done with the spirit of Christmas not only to those whose needs are great, but also for all of us who are Santa's elves.

It all starts with various elves bringing down appropriate toys. For instance, some bring soccer balls, some Barbie Dolls, some plush toys, some collections of motel soaps and grooming aids, etc., and of course money. Ron and Arlene start the next season by shopping in Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta early in the New Year to take advantage of toy sales. These are stored in their bodega (storage area) until the coming season. While back in the US or Canada, those of us who are able to, purchase or acquire toys and bring them to Mexico with us.

After getting an idea of what has been brought down from US or Canada or purchased locally, Ron and Arlene make a trip to Guadalajara in mid December to purchase additional gifts. After enough have been donated or purchased, the work begins in order to get the gifts ready for the Christmas Eve giving.

First, some ladies get together and cut paper to the correct size for the wrapping. This means going through the presents and counting and measuring them so as to not waste paper. Than a few days later, we all get together, 25 of us this year, in order to wrap the presents and sort them into an appropriate bag as to sex and age groupings.

Than comes the big day, December 24th, Christmas Eve. We all, about 40 this year, gather at Ron and Arlene's, at around two o'clock, dressed up in our Christmas finery. For those without any, there is a box full of various Christmas hats that have been collected over the years. We load up vehicles with the presents, actually many of them, as this year there were 1248 wrapped gifts as well a huge tub full of bagged candy.

Than we all gather, dressed in our Christmas finery, around the pool where we have our picture taken for prosperity. There is lots of laughter and happiness as this is an enjoyable experience for all.

At about 3:30, we drive off off to the little church in the barrio. A Mexican family, Alejandro, his wife and sons are already there to help, as they have been doing almost from the beginning 14 years ago, with the setting up of the tables from which the presents are given, seating for Mr. and Mrs. Santa, etc.

The church is behind a fence with two gates. Two hundred or more children, mostly the youngest ones as for them Santa is still a very special person, are already lined up and waiting when we arrive.

At four o'clock, Santa, to a great fanfare from the children as well as us, arrives. He is seated this year in a fire engine red Volkswagen convertible. He is all dressed up in Santa's finery, from black boots up to a mop of curly white hair and a beard. He ho hos his way into the church yard and takes his seat with Mrs. Santa beside him.

The children are than let in, five boys and five girls at a time where they are marked, with an indelible pencil on their hand, with their age. There are two rows of tables, one for the boys and the other for the girls. Those who give out the gifts, look at the children's hands and hand over an appropriate gift.

The children than go by Santa, where they get to shake his hand, or sit on his knee, or receive a hug or sometimes break out in tears. They than are directed to the other gate where they are given a bag of candy and exit the church yard.

The gifts and the giving of them are constantly being refined and this year was not an exception. The Barbie Dolls were given to younger girls than in the past, who seem to appreciate them more.

The girls 12 and older were given make up kits, which appeared to be a great hit. We also had some presents given to us, that were more suitable for young mothers – believe me when I say that some of them are pretty young – which was also great success.

Last year we found that soccer balls were greatly appreciated by the older boys and we increased the amount of them to 250 or so this year. We had three sizes from regulation down and the giving of them was tailored to the boy's age. Soccer or "fut-bal" as it is known here is very popular. It is kind of neat to drive around and see young lads playing with their fut-bals that they acquired at Christmas time.

We are getting so organized that it took us only one and a quarter hours to give out all the 1248 presents this year. It is said that practice makes perfect.

Than it was back to Mr. and Mrs. Santa's place where a very hot Santa was more than happy to take off his extremely warm suit.

Most stayed for a drink or two and than left for other Christmas Eve happenings. For those who stayed, a large turkey supplied by Mr. and Mrs. Santa, as well as a ham and all the trimmings, supplied by others, necessary for a proper and old fashioned Christmas dinner was laid out.

I must say that no one could have had a finer Christmas, except perhaps for the children that received the gifts.

Now, after 20 years of putting smiles on the faces of the children of Bucerias, Ron & Arlene have turned over the reins to Jan and Jennie Roden. Please contact them if you wish to become involved in this worthwhile cause.

About Jan and Jennie

After 20 years of putting smiles on the faces of the children of Bucerias, Ron & Arlene have turned over the reins to Jan and Jennie Roden, the new Mr. & Mrs. Santa.

Like so many expatriates, Jan and Jennie realized their long-term plans in 2012 - to retire and live in the beautiful Bahia de Banderas region.

Coming from a small university city in Northern California, Chico, they cured their initial homesickness by plunging into the vibrant life of their chosen community, Bucerias. The transition was made a little smoother by Jennie's Spanish-speaking background and Jan's ability to speak English, Swedish, German, and Italian. Naturally, he's picking up Spanish quite fast!

Used to a fast-paced working life, they wanted to stay active by getting involved in their community. They soon discovered two causes, both very worthwhile, well-organized, and represented by extremely friendly, hard-working people: the Bucerias Christmas Children's Program and the Bucerias' library for children, Biblioteca Rey Nayar.

The Rodens' long-term objective is to work towards a connection between the expatriate and Mexican community. Building a cultural bridge between the two worlds such that both expats and locals work side by side for the betterment of future generations is an idea the Rodens feel is worth pursuing.

Last updated: June 20, 2023 · Charity ID: 513

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