Olver Vaca looked bemused when I asked him when he starts preparing for Christmas.
Olver lives in Beni, in the Bolivian Amazon and works for CIPCA, a Christian Aid partner which empowers often-ignored indigenous communities.
The Amazon plays a vital role in their physical and spiritual wellbeing: to them the rainforest is the embodiment of Mother Earth providing food and medical care. But it is a hard life, vulnerable to the devastating effects of flooding caused by climate change.
The Church of Scotland Guild and Christian Aid have embarked on a project to provide solar ovens to the families in Beni. These ovens have already transformed the life of the community. The women, freed from laborious wood-gathering and cooking duties, have more time to engage with community decision-making and to work in the cocoa fields.
Beni has been named among the top 15 best cocoa-growing regions in the world. Olver's passion for cocoa-growing is palpable as he describes how the beans are grown co-operatively on shared land. At Christmas - he beams with pride as he’s telling me - they will celebrate with lots of chocolate.
And so to my question about when the Christmas festivities start in Beni. Olver describes how Christmas begins when the first seeds are planted at the start of the year. All throughout the year, the plants are coaxed to bear fruit. Then on Christmas Eve, the community gathers together bringing gifts of food to celebrate Mother Earth's goodness during the year.
Olver tells me there will be no gifts. But there will be family and thanksgiving... and chocolate.
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