I’m not Christian, so I don’t celebrate Christmas for religious reasons. Nonetheless, it is a very important holiday to me. Growing up in the United States, this time of year represents a break from work, time to spend with my family reunited, and the best retail sales of the year. I’m a few degrees happier from Thanksgiving day, when the holiday decorations and music breakout, to New Year’s Eve. But now living in Argentina, Christmas does not have quite the same effect.
For starters, it’s summer. The weather is so hot, you might as well set up your Christmas tree by the pool and open presents in a bikini. Without the snow storms that are becoming a little too common in D.C., it didn’t quite hit me that Christmas was coming–a valid excuse I used for having sent presents a few days late.
As for retail sales, those are practically non-existent here. Not only are there no (meaningful) sales, but there is no holiday music playing in the shops! No Spanish version of “Deck the Halls,” or “Twelve Days of Christmas,” or even “Jingle Bells.” Lighted Christmas trees spread throughout the city and in shopping centers were the only real signs that Santa was coming to town.
But all was not lost this year.
Though I could not be with my family, I did celebrate with another. My friend and co-worker, G., invited me to her home in La Plata for a traditional Argentine celebration. Unlike in the United States, the celebratory dinner is on Christmas Eve. And not for an early supper around 5 p.m., but rather 10 p.m.! Sitting outside on the patio, we stuffed our faces with a hefty turkey, mixed potato salad and an ice cream desert while watching the fireworks set by neighbors near and far. At 12 a.m. we hugged and took pictures to capture this special moment, and by 12:05 a.m. all presents were opened and the real celebration began.
G.’s brother and cousin came by with their loved ones, as did all her lifelong friends. We sat, drank, talked and laughed while listening to music until 6:30 a.m. I went to bed exhausted, but smiling nonetheless.
I thought this Christmas would be difficult to pass while so far from home, but in the end it was one of the best and most memorable. Moments like these are what keep me motivated to live abroad and experience life beyond my comfort zone. Here’s to more good times in 2012!