Spending Christmas away from home is almost always unique one way or another. For those of us dreaming of a white Christmas, it may be customary to imagine snow on the ground, a warm fire, and spending quality time with family. While for others, a magical Christmas could mean travelling to tropical locations to escape the bitter cold and trade it in for a cool cocktail and some well-deserved R&R.
For those of us finding that we may be spending Christmas in Argentina, rest assured, you’re holiday vacation will most definitely be unique.
1. CHRISTMAS FEAST
My idea of a traditional Christmas feast is a roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables and of course some holiday dessert staples such as fruit cake or bread pudding. Just thinking of it all is enough to get my tummy grumbling.
However, if you’re spending Christmas in Argentina this year, the staple turkey-dinner may not be part of your plans. Typically, an Argentine Christmas feast is a barbecue, or Asado for those familiar with this type of meal. Since Christmas is in the summer, families opt for an outdoor meal instead of being cooped up in the kitchen with the heat. Trade in spending Christmas wrapped up in blankets next to a warm fire place as snow falls outside, for a plate of meat by the poolside. It’s not any less festive, and could be a nice change of pace from the typical holiday vacation. As summer is usually brave during holidays, the asado is usually switched by a vitel toné, russian salad (very different from the original), pellet, milanesa, matambre and from dessert, pan dulce (stola or sweet Christmas bread) and old types of dried fruits, praliné, peanut with chocolate and nougats. Argentineans maintain some European´s and North Hemisphere`s traditions, so you might find them on meals and on decoration.
We all have our Christmas Eve traditions. Whether it’s attending a church service, enjoying a dinner with friends and family, opening up a couple of presents pre-December 25th, or laying out some milk and cookies for plump ol’ Saint Nick, the 24th is just as much a part of the holiday spirit as actual Christmas day.
A personal favorite Argentine tradition are the fireworks that are set off on midnight of the 24th. Sleepy parents and rambunctious children flock to the streets to enjoy the spectacle of lights glittering across the sky. There’s cheering, there’s laughter, and there’s dancing as Argentine’s shout “Feliz Navidad” between houses. The “Santa Claus show” begins at this precise moment, while kids are distracted with fireworks and “where Santa Claus might be?”, other members of the family run to put the presents next to the Christmas Tree and later on pretend that “Santa was Here”. Surprised faces of the little ones make the running worth it.
It’s no mystery that spending Christmas in Argentina means spending the holidays in the heat. High temperatures, shorts, air conditioners, and palm trees may throw some of us northern-hemisphere dwellers for a loop.
However, what continues to baffle me year after year when Argentines start decorating their houses and apartments for the holiday season is the overwhelming amount of snow-related decorations. Commercial supermarkets to locally owned stores selling seasonal decorations fill their shelves with cotton-ball snow adornments. Ornaments hang from fake pine trees complete with paper-mache snowflakes and dancing snowmen.
4. NO CHRISTMAS EVE PLANS? HIT-UP THE “BOLICHES”
For the expats who have spent continuous years in Argentina for the holidays, Christmas Eve is popular night to spend dancing with friends at the boliches. In fact, some would say the nightlife on Christmas Eve is incomparable to going out on New Year’s Eve.
If you’re spending the holiday in Buenos Aires, some of the most popular boliches such as Niceto, Pacha, and Crobar have been known to throw some pretty great Christmas-themed parties. Live bands, DJ sets, and packed houses are all part of the Christmas experience in the southern hemisphere. Take advantage and grab your friends for a Christmas Eve party like no other and dance away the night until the sun comes up.
Many families tend to make their own cocktails and dance to the rhythm of some speaker brought by the teenage nephew. This can last until the wee hours of the morning, but, if the DJ of the family is not so good or the family is not into music, the youngers will run to meet their friends and continue the party somewhere else.
5. THREE KINGS DAY
Why only have one day dedicated to presents when you can have two? Three Kings Day is a Catholic holiday still celebrated throughout much of Latin America, Spain, and Portugal. It marks the 12-day journey between Christmas and January 6th when the three kings made their pilgrimage to meet the son of God.
The typical tradition follows as such; children leave their shoes outside and in the morning gifts appear along with a small chocolate treat. A cute twist on the milk and cookies gig, children receive gifts in their shoes if they’ve been good for the entire year. Though the tradition usually ends when children reach their mid-teens, it continues to be a celebrated, household holiday for many Argentine families.
Spending Christmas in Argentina is full of different quirks and hidden surprises. Jump into the Argentine holiday spirit and your Christmas will surely be one to remember.
Written by Hillary Skeffington – Edited by Say Hueque