Sunday, December 28, 2008

'All I Want for Christmas...' A Look Back

I wanted to write a nice, G-rated post about the holiday because my next post is going to be a doozy.

As happens with some frequency, I started a post several days ago and then abandoned it. I will excerpt some of it here for your reading pleasure:

Title: All I Want For Christmas

...Are all the things that broke over the course of the year. That would include:
  • the DVD player
  • my printer
  • our cordless phone
  • my car speakers...
The list went on. I didn't get any of these things, except the cordless phone. Actually I broke down and bought one because I couldn't stand living in a house with only one phone on a floor. I read an inane article on the NYT website about how phone cords were a thing of the past and I thought that those people don't live in my world. But then again, I live in a house with three phones, and three cell phones so I can't really complain.
Actually, I'm not being entirely honest. There's lots of other things I would like too, but I'm not even going to post that list. That one contains a lot of really big ticket items that officially go in the 'pipe dream' category.
I didn't get any pipe dreams for Christmas either... or airline tickets... or beach-front apartments or rural properties heavy on the trees and light on the people (and the noise)...
Here in Brazil I don't tell people 'Happy Holidays,' if I did they probably wouldn't know what I was talking about. In a country that is mostly nominally Catholic with the second biggest demographic being other flavors of Christianity, everyone says Merry Christmas or rather: Feliz Natal.
But I write this blog mostly for my friends back home, so Happy Holidays.

I have read the posts of my fellow Americans-In-Salvador in honor of this holiday season and I share many of the same sentiments. I doubt there are many expats that don't get somewhat homesick over the holidays- the ones that don't are doing something right.

Christmas used to be when my Swedish heritage came booming to the fore, with the cookies and the Swedish Christmas carols and that little candle thing with the angels flying around in circles ringing bells (see picture). That made great shadows on the ceiling I remember. Every year we had an advent calendar.

I guess in some ways my Christmas now is more when my American heritage comes out- what with the materialism and the guilt and the spending of too much money. Then again, these have all been pretty well incorporated into the Brazilian experience so it's not terribly unique to the US- chalk it up to extremely successful cultural imperialism.

One way that my Christmas has shown my at least partial Brazilification was in my choice of Christmas lights. At home, we had white lights that looked like candles. We scoffed and/or laughed at any colored and/or blinking lights as being exceedingly kitschy and "American." One exception was our friend who had the lava lamp Christmas lights- I think we cut him some slack because they were so over the top. When I got my own house and started preparing my own Christmas decorations like a rebellious madman I bought blinking, colored lights to put in the windows (almost completely shorted out in a downpour this year) and blinking, colored lights for the artificial tree (gasp!! - it's true, not that blue spruces can be bought on the street here even if I wanted one) with an added bonus feature: a teeny green box that beeps out a medley of Christmas favorites with all the lights blinking in time. I guess I'm not that thoroughly assimilated though- when I put on the lights I immediately turn off the bleeper and slow the lights down to a non-seizure-inducing pace. I have often walked into the living room to see one or more members of my family watching the TV with the tree squawking away or blinking furiously... now that's Brazil!

The materialism was good this year. Ruan got a cell phone with an MP3 player built in so now he's not the only 11 year old kid in the city without a phone. My mom sent him a Chris Brown CD and that's getting lots of play already on the tiny device. Lucas got a remote control Ferrari which has already exceeded expectations of durability after repeated high-speed crashes with all manner of immovable objects. Evani got a perfume she had asked for that was more expensive than the car and almost as expensive as the cell phone. The other thing I did for her was build a website for her fledgling cake-making business- admittedly somewhat crude, it still didn't arouse as much excitement as I thought it might. Here it is in it's not quite beta form- be kind. And the email doesn't work yet.

And me? I got an awesome package from my mom with gifts for everyone. I wrapped up the enclosed spray paint tips and the new books and stuck them under the tree with the cans of paint I had also purchased and wrapped up for myself. I now have lots of paint and I'm dying to get out and PAINT SOMETHING big and important but the opportunity evades me so far.

We opened our presents on Christmas Eve like we did post-childhood back home. No kids waking up at 5 AM to attack the stockings- in fact, no stockings. Just a nice meal, twenty minutes of flying bits of paper, and then a big party with the family on Christmas day here at the house, with beer and barbecue and all the rest.

All told I'd say a splendid time was had by all.


Anonymous said...

Glad you all had a good good christmas!!

Pedra said...

Hey thanks for the bowling yesterday. It was great to get out of the house and spend some time hanging out! I´ll forward the cake site to my students. They look yummy!

Jesse said...

Christmas Eve was crazy with a 2 (almost 3) year old in the house. The least amount of sleep ever. 4 hours for me, 2 hours for Michelle-with late night wrapping and setting stuff up- this time a small trampoline that had a crazy design. But all went well- Santa brought gifts and we saw many relatives for food, visiting and more presents.

AkuTyger said...

I fight very hard to get Ju to participate in some classic American stuff like putting cookies for Santa. It's not really the same without the snow though.

Amara said...

Sounds like you had a good Christmas!

I wanted to drop you a note and let you know that I really enjoy reading your blog. I studied in Salvador for five months and really want to return when I graduate in May. I can definitley relate to all the frustrations you write about. I was kind of done with Brazil when I left but now, stuck with schoolwork and post-grad applications in the cold, snowy Northeast, I've got Brazil on the brain again. Your blog almost makes me feel like I'm there! Keep it up!


michelle said...

How is it possible that that very grown up looking boy with the remote control car is Lucas?