Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas update from Niterói, Brazil

[Note - I am still getting used to my new -- BRAZILIAN/PORTUGUESE - computer. I can't yet get everything to work, including photos -- sorry -- In fact - I am using two keyboards to spell everything correctly...]  Anyway...


Once again Christmas was a joyous celebration among so-called blood family and chosen family.

Luiz and I live in a family with Zozó, his mother. She lives just a few doors down the road from us and Luiz is in contact with her at least twice a day. Naturally we love and adore her and would be spending Christmas in her company.

It has become a bit of a routine to join Zozó’s long-time neighbors in Itaipú and their extended family for a traditional Christmas Eve feast, celebration and gift exchange. The family is a delightful mix of seniors, moms and dads and children - about 20 people in all. Plus us.

Donna Conceição and Senhor Sergio throw one heck of a party.

This year there was cold Brahma beer on tap (very chic!) and the turkey was an unbelievable 12 kilograms (26.5 pounds) -- Note: our 7 kg (15 pound) turkey for thanksgiving was $R45 -- goddess bless donna Conceição - she must have spent at least $R130 on that turkey!. Plus there was the traditional salted cod/potato/creamy cheese bake (her bacalhão choice was SO flavorful, and surely top shelf!), flaked smoked chicken salad, creamy potato salad, sweet ham, roasted chestnuts, plus three fabulous desserts: a parfait (creamy layered wonderfulness), a multi-layered moist cake decorated like a Yule Log, and Rabanada (a super sweet think French Toast sort of deal sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon - then drizzled with a flavorful sugar sauce). We enjoyed a chic feast!

I had about one tablespoon of each... but it was fabulous.

The family is wonderful, gathering from up to 600 miles afar. The kids are great. And lucky for me, two of the daughters are English teachers, so when my Portuguese fell short, they could bridge the gap.

We played the “Secret Santa” game and each gave a gift to another randomly pulled from a hat one month before.

Quite fun.

I must add that Luiz’s gift to his 7 year old Secret Santa recipient was a radio controlled racing car. The boy went wild. Unfortunately Luiz neglected to provide the 6 AA batteries needed to make it all work. The boy was not deterred. He reminded his mother and grandmother that all the silly Christmas Santa toys bleeping and flashing all over the house were powered by such batteries. So he got them to harvest those batteries for his new race car toy.


The next morning he was in the street making magic happen - with most of the adults outside cheering him on. Luiz hit a home run with his gift!

Christmas day Luiz, Zozó and I enjoyed a quiet morning opening gifts and appreciating each other. Very nice.

My Skype account continues to block me - so I was not able to touch base with my family in the US (and apparently they did not use their Skype accounts to call me) -- plus they are not on Facebook - so I hope they know I love them and wish I could have spoken with them.

Christmas is very different here for this Detroit/San Francisco boy. Here in Brazil the vibe is totally different (as I still do not visit shopping malls - I take my experience from the streets). The holiday could quite literally come and go without notice, except for the family connection.

But I am grateful for those in my life who support me and keep me moving forward, in spite of my demons.

For me, New Years has a stronger pull.


Meredith said...

I also feel like the day could come and go without notice and I'm glad since I'm not with my family.

Merry Christmas!

Jennifer Souza said...

I agree that the day could come and go without notice. It is very interesting to me, how the consumer culture has not taken over completely here, drowning people in expectations and guilt.

Nina said...

Merry Christmas.

Third christmas, sometimes it seems to get easier but then sometimes it seems not to. Anyway, maybe I get my white christmas next year with the baby.

Anonymous said...

it seems like you had a lovely event!!

how could it go unnoticed to you? all the malls and stores were packed! Christmas songs , decorations , movies everywhere!

Jim said...

It was indeed a fun time. But Anon - I never went to a mall - just the streets near me. Not an overwhelming Xmas deluge.

Lindsey said...

You're right Jim - outside the malls, there are barely lights or decorations. Christmas could definitely go unnoticed unless you make a valiant effort to 'notice' it.
Jen, the culture hasn't taken over because there are still so many people who can't afford the same kind of spending in the North. That, and things are so much more expensive here! Ack!
We had a modest Christmas here in terms of gifts, but in terms of love and family it was big!

Looking forward to New Years as well, Jim. What are your plans??

Anita said...

This menu was very traditional Brazilian. Absolutely nothing was missing - you are very, very lucky. Here in Holland X-mas is a very modest festivity (Calvinism is a lifestyle here), with not exactly traditional meals... no big groups or big décor. A fine meal, no music, and then everybody goes early to bed. After all, they celebrate the "real guy" with their Sinterklaas in November. They consider X-mas an American invention and Santa just a mockery/distortion of their Sinterklaas (which is in turn already a distortion of the life of a bishop from Smyrna, Turkey: Nicholas).

Danielle said...

Sounds like it was a nice party, Jim! You clearly made the most of time with friends, family and food. :) Alexandre's family is totally not worried about the present thing, and it's so refreshing.