Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas - our Brazilian experience

The tree at the local shopping mall
Can I do this? Can I somehow communicate the strangeness of our Christmas Eve celebration with family here in Niterói and the disconnected celebration on Christmas Day with our friends without diminishing the annual joy of Christmas in Brazil for others?

As my friends online have shared, for an expat from the US now living in Brazil, Christmastime is just not the same and it imposes an emotional toll, if slightly, boldly, tangentially or unconsciously. For me, the feelings were real – but I’m not sure if they were sad ones looking over my shoulder or curiously liberated ones looking ahead. I have never been a traditionalist when it comes to “family” holidays.

It needs to be said that this year was the first year we experienced Christmas without Zozó’s beloved husband Tonico. So right out of the gate we were melancholic about the holiday. We missed Tonico and Luiz and I especially ached to see Zozó experiencing such sadness.

Our three were invited (first time) to join Zozó’s 40+ year friends, two sisters and their families, for a casual Christmas Eve complete with a Secret Santa gift exchange. It was my kind of party: no bevy of kids running around (the youngest was 27), no live broadcast of the Pope celebrating midnight mass on the television, no singing carols at midnight… just great conversation, casual expectations, terrific food and, unfortunately (not my kind of party), an over abundance of second hand smoke.

The Secret Santa part had us in stitches as people stole gifts from one another and, since we were all adults, no one was personally disappointed with the final results.

Most people at the party would receive two Christmas gifts this year: one from the Secret Santa game, and one from their husband or wife (or parents). No fanfare. No pile of crumpled gift wrap.

As it turned out Christmas day was also the 40th birthday of a good friend, so there was a big party planned. The host house was an incredible place for a party, but there were next to no holiday decorations in sight anywhere. It was as if Christmas ended at 2:30 a.m. last night and now we were on to the next reason to celebrate.

Fine with me, but SO different than what I am used to.

We talked, swam, drank beer from the endless tap, photographed the kids, ate BBQ, danced and sweat in the 90 degree heat all afternoon and into the night.

There was no mention of Christmas. In fact, when I said Merry Christmas to one person he corrected me and said I should now be saying Happy New Year. Christmas was over. (It was December 25th.) Oh, OK.

It was a GREAT party all the same.

Wow – things are run a bit differently here. And by here I mean my little corner of Brazil that I know through my family, friends and the city I live in. I do not presume to speak about more than that.

Even the little ones stayed amused all night (shout out to Brooke)

Things were very different indeed. I look forward to experiencing more next year.

1 comment:

Fiona said...

Merry Christmas and happy new year! Getting away from the expected traditional can become liberating at times! Hopefully less focus on gifts meant more focus on just BEING together. :)