Celebrating Christmas in Brazil is wrong. Christmas should be all about wet, windy and cold days that are short and oh so dark. It should be about watching TV specials because there is nothing else to do, or wearing your dodgy reindeer jumper if you really have to go outside and brave the elements.
It shouldn’t be about wearing shorts and Havaianas, or watching Father Christmas nearly passing out from the heat, or staying indoors because the sun is too strong and will roast you to a cinder. While Christmas is often much better in Brazil because it is the height of summer, it still doesn’t feel ‘right’.
The big difference for me is that in the UK Christmas is on the 25th. The 24th, or Christmas Eve, has always been about meeting up with old friends who I hadn’t seen since the previous Christmas Eve, having a few (lot of) drinks and stumbling home around midnight.
When I was a kid, the 24th was all about going to bed and getting to sleep before Father Christmas arrived. I was told that if I was awake when Father Christmas arrived I wouldn’t get any presents. The excitement and anticipation of the presents the next day, coupled with the stress of not being able to get to sleep was almost unbearable.
And then my brother would wake up at 4am and demand to be allowed downstairs to open his presents. When we were finally allowed downstairs all the stress was undoubtedly worth it.
Here in Brazil the big day is the 24th, or at least the evening of the 24th. Families get together and exchange presents. Father Christmas, or somebody’s uncle, will often make an appearance and give presents directly to the children of the house. The 25th is less important, and seems to me to be a way of getting over the previous evening.
And now that families are more fragmented than in the past this can be a problem. There is a lot of pressure on you to meet with all branches of the family on the 24th, and this has meant that on more than one occasion I have eaten a big Christmas meal at 8pm, followed by another one at 10pm. I know this isn’t a uniquely Brazilian thing, but the lateness of it can make it very uncomfortable.
In the UK I would expect to see turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, parsnips and Brussels sprouts, with Christmas pudding for afters. In Brazil there might well be some turkey, but there will almost definitely be some cod, lots of fruit and salad. There is a wide range of desserts, but the most ubiquitous seems to be a panattone, which to me seems like a big loaf of sweet bread.
The food part isn’t really a big deal for me as I have been vegetarian since I was 16. Whatever meat you make I am not going to be interested, but at the pasta I am usually served here is pretty good.
In the UK some people will wish you ‘happy holidays’ instead of ‘happy Christmas’ in an effort to be more inclusive. I like the idea, but the problem is that we don’t really have much of a holiday. One day off for Christmas, another for Boxing Day and a week later a day off for New Year’s is about it .
In Brazil, the phrase ‘happy holidays’, if they used it, would actually mean something because Christmas really does mark the beginning of the holiday season. From Christmas until carnival the beaches are packed, the offices are empty and everyone is enjoying the sun and, at least here in Curitiba, complaining about the heat.
Christmas in Different Lands
This post is part of a series organised by the wonderful Multicultural Kid Blogs where people from all over the world write about what Christmas is like where they live. As well as this series they have a whole host of great ideas and material for anyone interested in raising multicultural families.
- Havaianas – The Ultimate Flip Flop (urbansoleboutique.wordpress.com)
- Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere (acsathensgr5.wordpress.com)