Coconut blossom aroma fills Asuncion market at Christmas


The characteristic aroma of the “caranday poty” (coconut blossom in Guarani), the most typical of Paraguay’s Christmas fragrances, is enjoyed throughout this season by shoppers visiting Asuncion’s Market 4.

The coconut blossom, long and full of little yellow seeds that are continually shed and cover the floor of the market, is one of the products most in demand during the Christmas season, salesman Ruben Sosa told EFE.

He said the flower “has a pretty fragrance,” so he and his family collect them from their own palm trees in the town of Aregua, some 30km (19 miles) north of Asuncion, because “people like to put them in their offices and their homes.”

He added that “there is also a red blossom that is called the caraguata flower,” which is used to “adorn the Nativity scene.”

Sosa makes traditional Paraguayan Nativities out of different kinds of wood and straw. He said “people used to make their own, but since no one has time for that anymore,” they come snap them up in the market.

The Nativity sets, which can cost up to 600,000 guaranis ($100), are for a single use and aside from the ceramic figures representing the birth of Jesus in the Christian tradition, include offerings of fruits like watermelons, apples and corn on the cob “so there is abundance in the home,” Sosa said.

Nonetheless, at present what is most common among urban Paraguayans is to decorate their Nativities with such fruits but now made of ceramic, since the real ones rot as time passes while “these last a lot longer,” said another of the vendors in the market, Magdalena Torres.

Torres, also from Aregua, and who has been coming every Christmas for 40 years to sell in Market 4, added a sour note to the colorful aspect of the Asuncion bazaar in December, explaining that she and her family “sleep” in their stand during the two months of the Christmas season.

They bed down right in the market to avoid being robbed and because it’s not worth paying the transport fare from Aregua and back every day.

She noted that the lady who manages the stand next to her “keeps watch on the place” and sometimes a municipality representative drops by to collect the fee for selling goods there, but “doesn’t always collect it.”

She added that she doesn’t pay taxes on her sales because, while “she might be asked for a legal receipt,” she just doesn’t have the money.