Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas, from the other side.

I have to say, it can sometimes SUCK to be an expat during Christmas. The SU of the suck is double when you are an expat from a country with 2 to 4 seasons and you are living in Brazil.

You see, Brazil is like the inside of an easy bake oven during the Holiday Season.   Hell hath no fury like Brazilian summer.

I remember my first summer in Brazil. I was all excited to experience my husband's version of Christmas.  I was even a bit excited to be spending my first Christmas away from home. Oh, how grown up and worldly I had become.

Plus, it didn't even feel like Christmas. I was more golden than the turkey after all the beach time, probably just as crisp.  And I don't care how many lights you put on building gates and palm trees, it ain't Christmas to me.

We got to the Grandma's house and it was all hustle and bustle, green and red, food everywhere, and people drinking. Of course, we were all melting too. Stupidly cold beers were being passed out to help with the heat, and we were all crammed on the veranda.

It was awesome. Of course I missed my family but with all the color, flavors, and sass of it all, it was easy to be distracted.

Then it happened. They put on Christmas music in English. I heard the start of Silent Night and the tears started to flow.  My family isn't the circle around the fire and sing carols type of family but the music still struck a cord.  The thing was that, it was a part of my Christmas.  It reminded me of how weird it was for me to have swamp ass  at a Christmas party.  I should have been drinking red wine or egg nog, although I hate egg nog.  And what the hell was with the french toast!? Good stuff but really, as a Christmas appetizer?

Don't worry, it all ended well. I was shuffled to the phone to call my family and matar saudade (kill the missings, for lack of a better term).

Now we combine traditions when we are in Brazil.  We open family presents Christmas eve with the family and the kids open the presents from us on Christmas morning. Santa does stocking for my little half Americans in Brazil.  And we have Christmas day lunch as well as a Christmas eve dinner.

On rare occasions like this year, we get to come stateside for the holidays.  Times like these, we do it 110% with all the treats, all the drinks, all the presents, and damn good stockings.

How about you guys? How have you blended your holiday traditions?  What do you miss most about Christmas at your other home?


  1. What?? Christmas??? Where?? It's December now?????

  2. This was so nice to read. Its my first Christmas away from home and I have never been so homesick in my life. I shamefully find myself annoyed at Christmas here because it isn't cold and snowy. All my friends say they are jealous Ill be at the beach, well of course when you are freezing your ass off everyone wants to be at the beach but if only they knew how hard it is! I have enjoyed reading about everything you are eating back home, Ohhh I cannot wait for the day! Till then Ill just eat more here, silly panetone!

  3. Growing up as a Hermosa Beach brat, I can't say that I miss the snow, cold, etc. that other expats are longing for. Heck, Christmas here is almost the same - but a lot warmer. Even though I miss my family and friends back in Cali, my family here is just as warm and loving which makes Christmas with them a special time. I love how the Brazilian family culture is so similar to my Jamaican/Filipino/Mexican upbringing. I do miss my traditional Christmas rum with a splash of eggnog and the mountain of homemade tamales.

  4. You cracked me up with the french toast thing, maybe it was X-mas breakfast, and you were in a diferent time zone. Can't complain about Chrisimas in Massachusetts, cold and snowy the way I like it. Have a merry Christmas.


  5. PP - Glad I could help. The first one is the hardest. You are losing your Christmas in Brazil Virginity. It's fun but there's also a little pain when the cork is popped.

    And I so don't get the panetone. I'm thinking about trying to smuggle in a bunch of stuff from home and having an expat gorge fest party. Don't know if I'll pull it off but I'll let you know if I do.

    Maija - Yes, apparently it is December and there's only a couple more days until Santa arrives!

    Greg - Yeah, Snow is overrated. My kids are LOVING it, even though it's half ice and half dirty slush now. Hoping for more...

    Rob - thanks! The french toast, forget the name right now, is a traditional Brazilian Christmas food. It's like french toast but better. More cinnamon and sugar and on something like french bread. SO good but SO weird for dinner.

  6. Christmas is such a kids thing... without kids it kinda comes and goes for me. Luiz and I try to please each other with a secret gift, but even that is over rated when all is said and done.

    My family history is so whack that I don't really swoon for the old days... We would have to go back pretty far to find the "good ol' days".

    Those delicious french toast things are called Rabanada.

    But with kids -- very fun.

  7. Rachel,

    Panetones were introduced in Brazil as an Italian tradition and today is a national Brazilian Christmas staple.
    New England also has a strong Panetone tradition due to the large number of Italians around here...
    I think fruit cakes are VERY similar to Panetone, of course, it is like a Panetone on steroids :) but very similar ingredients...


  8. In Jamaica we have a bread/cake similar to panetone which we call "bun". It is basically an ultra dense fruit cake. My grandmother would always make it and then soak it with overproof rum before serving. Tasty stuff!

  9. Jim - Rabanada.! I had a friend who lived off it during her pregnancy. Her MIL's maids and the bakery near her place would make it for her. Seriously tasty.

    The Brits have a rum cake too Greg. Becoming Brazilian has been soaking hers since October. I bet feeding it to the kids is a great way to get them to sleep all night ;)

  10. Spent the past two years in Brazil for xmas. Typically, arriving from the states xmas morning and hanging out with my fiance's family in Belo. So far, have enjoyed. We don't exchange presents, just hang out, barbeque, and have a few beers. This Christmas, will be on the plane to Belo, with my parents and aunt. Btw, Happy Summer Solstice to everyone in Brazil!

  11. I spent a Christmas in Central America once and it was awful. My mom dragged a turkey in her carry on luggage so we could celebrate "American Style". We were sweating and eating hot turkey. Makes me want to barf just thinking about it. Side note: our friends were totally freaked out by the size of our American turkey. Apparently it's not normal for turkeys to weigh as much as a toddler. Go figure.

  12. We were going to spend this Christmas in Brazil, but after $3000 tickets popped up on the screen, we opted for a much cheaper trip in November instead. And I'm SO glad. Seeing Santa hanging off a balcony while the sun is giving me heat stroke just isn't really Christmasy to me. People were starting to put up lights while we were there, and I swear they just didn't look right in the warm evening air. My inlaws put up a rickety old tree but don't decorate it. Maybe it would've been fine, but I'm so glad that we're here in cold San Diego for Christmas this year.

  13. Luasol, awesome! I've been trying to get my family down to Brazil for Christmas for years. I think I may get them next year though...

    Hen, yeah, they do find our wginormous food odd. I love that your Mom brought a bird in her carry-on! That's ballsy!

    Laural - It is expensive. We got a deal but still spent a mini fortune to come home. It's worth it but, on the other hand, will not be happening again for a while. Would be cheaper to just fly my parents down instead of all of us up.

  14. With Xmas just a few days away, I still can't get into the spirit here in Rio! Two summers in a row (having just moved to Rio from Houston), and I'm fantasizing about snow. I know, I know, the grass is always greener...

    As another mum pointed out today, the upside is that with the weather in Rio so warm, it actually helps me miss my family at home much less because it doesn't feel like I'm missing Xmas with them.

    The other upside is that I get to miss out on the immense commercialism of Xmas in the States. Xmas in Rio seems far less commercial than what I usual witness.

  15. Snow has its charm but brazilian food compensates it! : )