Wherever we live, whatever lifestyle we choose, our lives typically fall into a rhythm. Here in David, Panama, where I live, the weather is a major factor in the rhythm of daily life, and the things we do depend on whether it’s summer or winter.
Winter in Panama? Yup, that’s what we call it, el invierno in Spanish. The funny thing, from a North American perspective, is that wintertime in Panama starts in May and ends in December. That’s the green or rainy season.
Despite the name, though, the air temperature doesn’t change that much in winter, but because it rains for at least part of almost every day, it is much cooler.
For anyone who’s not from a tropical environment, it’s still plenty warm. Take a look at the average temperatures around Panama below:
|Summertime: December- May||Wintertime: June – November|
In mid-December the rain ends, as if someone turned off the switch, and summertime or el verano begins. It’s still cool in January and February, but by March it’s noticeably warmer and drier. Of course, there are variations around the country, with a surprising range of micro-climates, but in general the rain returns around mid-May. So the result is two distinct seasons…and two rhythms of daily life in Panama.
Summertime kicks off with Mother’s Day on December 8th each year, which is a national holiday. The school year ends in mid-December, meaning everyone is ready for graduations and parties.
Of course then come Christmas and New Year’s, when many businesses close for vacation. Families travel to visit, shopping centers are jammed, hotels and resorts are full, and the traffic gets heavier. Firework vendors spring up overnight and you might as well stay up until midnight, because you can’t sleep through the cacophony of explosions!
Because there is little chance of rain, outdoor activities swing into high gear in January. Check the event calendars and there are county and town fairs galore, highlighting each region’s agriculture, commerce, folklore and culture.
Many special annual events are scheduled at this time of year, such as The Panama Jazz Festival and the Boquete Flowers and Coffee Fair in January, the Cocle Orange Fair and Boquete Jazz and Blues Festival in February, the David International Fair and Micro Brew Festival in March, and the International Film Festival and Boquete Orchid Festival in April. And, of course, Carnival!
Summertime is also beach time, as all the billboard and TV ads remind us. From David, it’s a short drive to the Pacific beaches of Las Lajas or Las Olas for a day in the sun and sand.
Wintertime arrives with the return of the rain in May, a welcome relief. I love the rainy season here because the air always feels clean and the cool breezes are so refreshing. The grass, trees, and shrubs all turn lush green and the countryside is incredibly beautiful. Like springtime up north, it is a time of rebirth, when all the plants come back to life and we shake off the dust of the dry season. In the evening the air cools down and it’s perfect sleeping weather, even in July and August when we used to swelter up north.
Daily life takes on a different pattern in wintertime. Everyone is busy working and there are few holidays from May through October. The rain usually comes in the afternoon, so chores and errands need to be done in the morning. I do my shopping and running around in town so I get back home before noon. We all do our laundry early so we can hang it out to dry before it rains.
The kids are back in school and from the schoolyards you hear them practicing their drums and xylophones at all hours. They’re preparing for the national holidays in November, celebrated with parades and marching bands all over the country.
Then the cycle of the seasons starts all over again… It’s a comfortable rhythm of life here in my Panamanian home.
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