As I get ready to experience my first Christmas abroad, I can’t help but be nostalgic about how we used to celebrate Christmas back home. I would like to share with you, our customs and traditions.
Our Christmas customs are similar to those of many countries in the Western world. The only difference is that it arrives in the middle of summer, with hot and sunny days. So, why not go to the beach? That's usually what we do on December 25th, and we probably see Papai Noel surfing, skating or skydiving. In fact, some extreme summer sportsmen wear Papai Noel costumes. Sorry, I forgot to introduce you to Papai Noel. This is how we call Santa Claus (Weihnachtsmann), we also call him "O Bom Velhinho" (The Good Old Man).
But, as I said, this will be my first Christmas abroad, or should I say, my first Christmas with temperatures not around 30 degrees. How is my expectation? Well, to be honest, I'm not much into Christmas customs and traditions, but I definitely hope that there will be a lot of snow and sub-zero temperatures. I hope to see the real Christmas atmosphere that we stage in Brazil in some malls and public places, where they use small pieces of cotton to represent the falling snow.
As in almost all Western cultures, Christmas is an unique family event, just like in Brazil. On Christmas people usually go to dinner at their parents' home. We decorate our houses with lamps, candles and the Christmas tree. Some cities have a unique decoration, and some become tourist attractions. The town of Gramado, in the South of Brazil, is strongly influenced by German traditions and hosts the most famous Christmas event and attracts around 2.5 million tourists every year.
Children leave their socks near the window to get a gift from Papai Noel. Some write a letter to "O Bom Velhinho" saying that they were good boys and girls during the year and therefore they deserve presents. Parents tell their children that if they don't behave well during the year, Papai Noel will not give them gifts.
And yes, we believe that Papai Noel lives in the North Pole, in Lapland. On Christmas' night, reindeers pull a sleigh with "O Bom Velhinho" across the night sky from the North Pole to Brazil to deliver gifts. It's such a long journey, but that's the magic of Christmas, as we say.
Usually,people at work, families, groups and friends make a so-called "amigo secreto" (secret friend). We write participants' names on a piece of paper and put them in a box. Then each one takes one name, without revealing to anyone who is his or her "amigo secreto". On Christmas Day, we tell the name of our secret friend and give him or her a gift. But not before playing, giving some characteristics of our "amigo secreto", while the others try to find out who he or she is.
At the Christmas dinner, we eat some typical dishes, such as pork, turkey, salads, fresh and dried fruits, nuts, and rice with raisins. This last one is a kind of mandatory dish that we use to play with it. We say Brazilian's Christmas dinner is pork with raisins, turkey with raisins, rice with raisins and raisins with raisins. But despite all protests, raisins continue appearing once a year in our rice. Christmas without rice with raisins is not Christmas, say lovers of this dish.
And of course, Christmas is a national holiday in Brazil, but only on December 25th. On December 26th, we have to leave the beach and come back to work. During the Christmas time we greet each other saying "Feliz Natal" (Merry Christmas). So, Feliz Natal to all of you!
Celso Brito is a Brazilian master student of International Tourism Development at Technische Hochschule Deggendorf (THD-ECRI). Experienced travel manager and tour leader, he has visited many countries around the world, mainly in Europe, South and North America. He loves literature, art, music, wine, gastronomy and is always ready for a trekking adventure.