My Christmases around the world

Introduction

I really wanted to tell a nice Christmas story, idealised childhood memories and so on. Then, I realised, I spent Christmas in so many different countries that this could actually be really fun to read about. (I, at least, had a blast writing it.) I sometimes didn't remember properly, so I might have made stuff up - unintentionally -. ... Still wondering whether there truly were sky lanterns flying around on Christmas Eve in Buenos Aires. Preeetty sure there were….) Anyway, read on, read on:

Germany

Christmas in Germany is the best. Ok, I’m biased. After all, childhood Christmases are always the best Christmases. In school, we used to make all sorts of Christmas decoration and presents (I sucked very much at it and always got glue all over my body).

I started studying English when I was 10 - which is probably super late. I think they now start in kindergarten or something, along with Chinese. Anyway, during the entire Advent time, our English classes consisted of singing English Christmas songs and this is why I know them all. All. I had this little notebook, which I embellished like a maniac because I wanted it to be the most beautiful notebook my teacher had ever seen. (I think I got close. I might still have it, actually.)

And then, the whole shebang, of course: tobogganing, Christmas markets, picking the perfect Christmas tree (i.e. big&bushy, yet, reasonably priced), playing Christmas songs on the flute at a frantic speed, games&fights with my cousins, grandpa dressed up as a grumpy Santa Claus. (Ok, I think that happened only once, but there is a picture!). Wonderful times!

Romania

I have family in Romania, so, we sometimes spent Christmas there. Actually, Christmas in Romania (and the whole road trip that comes with it!) is the best!

I remember lllong, like reallly long car drives. Loads of snow. My dad refusing to go any faster than 50mph. And my walkman blasting Christmas songs on repeat. My favourites were “Driving home for Christmas” by Chris Rea and “Feliz Navidad” by José Feliciano.

My family in Romania is huge. They all live in a small, really small, village. I am actually pretty sure that I’m related to the entire village in one way or the other. (Once, a stranger who was creeping behind me in the street turned out to be an uncle.)

On Christmas Eve, groups of carol singers (wind music players, church singers, gypsies, random drunkards, etc.) come to your house and you share Christmas cookies and alcohol with them. You basically celebrate with the whole village (as we are probably all related, anyway, this makes sense.) Fun times, fun times.

Brazil

After high-school, I went to Brazil to volunteer as an English teacher. I lived in the Northeast of Brazil in a village so small and remote, not even a newspaper made it to that place.

Christmas is in midsummer, there. The sun burns like crazy, mangoes are ripe and hotpants short (like: really short). Imagine Christmas in this scenario. I was expecting a tropical Santa Claus and holiday lights on palm trees, but instead: plastic Christmas trees and fake snow.

I don't remember much of the holiday season there. I just remember talking to my parents during an expensive overseas phone call (because it was 2003 and Skype was not even invented, yet) and feeling all alienated and sad. Strange times, my friend.

Argentina

A couple of years later, I was in Buenos Aires for Christmas. Some friends and I arranged a Christmas dinner. (All lonely souls in a foreign country: like, a New Yorker who now owns two successful Polish restaurants in Buenos Aires and a guy from Africa. - From which country exactly has always been a mystery. I think South Africa and Cameroon were the ones that popped up most frequently.- )

Christmas dinner was basically a barbeque. With loads of wine. There were fireworks and sky lanterns late at night. We figured that’s an Argentinian Christmas tradition, I still don't know.

One thing I do know is that, after the family dinner, Argentinians go out partying. Partying! On Christmas Eve. This would be the strangest thing to do in Germany! So we went out and partied our little lonely hearts out. (I might have been home by 1 am, though.) Yeah, crazy times. I miss Argentina.

Spain

I’ve been living in Spain for 5 years now and, believe me, I know a thing or two about Christmas time in Spain, well, in Mallorca (=small island in the Mediterranean Sea). I actually have no idea about Christmas time in Spain.

Fact 1: Switching on the Christmas street lights is a big thing here. Fact 2: They don’t do Christmas markets. (Not proper ones, at least.) Fact 3: Every place that gets the chance displays highly sophisticated nativity scenes (like tobacco shops and grocery markets.) Fact 4: You have, like HAVE to participate in the annual Christmas lottery. Fact 5: You probably won't get any presents for Christmas. They do presents for Three Kings' Day. (Makes more sense, actually, right?)

Christmas time here is also the time of 2474 different types of nougat, insanely good hot chocolate (the dense, almost puddingy one) with “churros” and loads of other deep-fried pastries. Yummy times!

And finally: a very happy Christmas to all of you, wherever in this small world you might be!