This year I am spending Christmas in Argentina. In all honesty, I don’t like it. It feels less like Christmas than any previous year. I’ve spent Christmas away before, but this time is different. It’s different for many reasons. One of those reasons being, because Christmas is celebrated so differently here.
I’ve made some great friends here in Argentina, and I love being here, but the past couple weeks have been hard. I miss the cold. I miss the skiing. I miss the snow. I miss the fireplaces. But most of all, I miss my family and friends. All of them make the season for me.
Last year I was invited into the home of a good Colombian friend of mine to share in Navidad. His family was so warm and welcoming (as I’ve found with most Colombians,) that I felt like I was at home. They welcomed me as a member of their family, and I enjoyed the holiday season as one of them. It didn’t matter that my Spanish was at a level only slightly higher than the family dog. I was family.
Both of the past two years I’ve spent the Christmas season somewhere warm. This year, in the summer of Argentina, and last year in one of the warmer cities of Colombia, Cali. Although for a Canadian I don’t think it’ll ever truly feel like Christmas when it’s over 0C (never-mind over 30C) outside, last year felt much more like Christmas. Colombians embrace Christmas with zeal. The entire month of December is Christmas to them, not just one day, and they celebrate accordingly. Every town square is covered in a million watts of lights, every house is decorated, and every Colombian is ready to party.
Christmas in Argentina is not like this. Christmas in Argentina is a much more subtle affair, similar to the people. There’s so few signs of Christmas here that you could truly forget that it’s that time of the year. The only place that I’ve even been reminded that it’s Christmas is in the malls, and they have an intrinsic interest in reminding people that “Santa’s coming.”
Medellin is a great example of Christmas in Colombia. Medellin has one of the largest Christmas light displays in the world. I’d imagine there are more lights up in Colombia’s second largest city than in all of Argentina. This way of celebration, from what I’ve noticed, is part of what makes these two countries so very different. Colombians are some of the most outgoing, open, and friendly people I’ve encountered. Argentines, although friendly once you get to know them, are much less open as a culture. This transfers over to Christmas celebrations.
When it comes to Christmas, there truly is no place like home. It’s been fun seeing how Colombia and Argentina celebrate Christmas, but I believe that Christmas is a celebration best spent with friends and family. The opportunity to travel for the last year and a half has been fantastic, but it’s times like this where I am homesick. Christmas in Argentina isn’t Christmas to me. I look forward to 2013, when I can spend it with everyone back home. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.