Have you ever spent Christmas in a place where none of the stereotypes are true? No? Well, let me tell you, it’s both amazing and tragic. Traditions and celebrations will always be different depending on where you come from, your parents’ backgrounds, or how religious you are, etc. I grew up in a tropical country; my Santa would wear swimming shorts, sandals and sunglasses, looking ready for the beach, but definitely not snow.
Brazil has one of the highest Catholic populations in the world, which explains why Christmas is such a serious holiday. We actually celebrate the birth of Christ by giving and receiving blessings throughout the day. Many families still attend the midnight mass and cherish it. Most churches also hold bazaars for a week or so in which artists, sometimes priests and nuns, will sell goods to raise money for the community.
To wake up and see snow on your window is not the reality for Brazilians, or for much of the world. Some of us are fortunate enough to wake up and see the ocean, sand, and massive colourful umbrellas. And if not, we just wake up feeling the Christmas spirit. As part of our traditions and culture, we like to celebrate big: massive amounts of food and as many family members as the hosting house can fit. Brazilian culture is all about family, ‘the more the merrier’ is the rule of thumb. The feast is held on the evening of 24 December, and gifts are exchanged at midnight. Usually, if the family has children all adults buy gifts for them. Adults partake in a casual, yet funny, Secret Santa. You can imagine my disappointment when I grew old enough to realise my Christmas would never be like the ones in the movies, where the happy children wake up the next morning and run to the tree to open their presents.
The European Christmas markets are somewhat rare in Brazil. We might have a weekend with a bazaar or a small fair, but not much longer than a couple of days. The heat during that time is almost unbearable; imagine staying under the 30 degree sun for a full day. You just can’t.
Sao Paulo’s most famous park, Ibirapuera Park, has the most incredible show of lights and water across the ponds. You wouldn’t get that if they were frozen. And on the other hand, the British Christmas trees are better. They are real pine trees, and they smell great. The heat in Brazil makes it impossible for the tree to survive, so most of ours are all fake and made out of plastic. They look authentic, but it’s not the same. Still, I can’t imagine myself spending Christmas anywhere else in the world.