December 9, 2006

Ho Ho Ho

So I’ve been away for a while. I traveled again to the yoga center south of Florianopolis to teach in mid-October and came home to C’s mom visiting, followed by a whole string of other distracting events and well, time just slips away. The trip to Floripa was great, as it was the last time, but even more so as I managed to score a new laptop (with some help from home.) So now fully equipped I will do my best to stay more on top of this blogging thing. No promises though – I’ve cried the promise wolf a few times already so no one would believe me anyway.

For some reason last year I gave my mother the idea that Christmas in Brazil isn’t a big deal. This isn’t at all true. Maybe it was true for us last year. Not having any children, still having a lot of our belongings in boxes and being so far flung from everything routine and familiar, we pretty much ignored Christmas last year. That with the fact that it is so hot here, and I was too timid and inarticulate to do any Christmas shopping by myself, it was hard for me to get in the holiday mood. But Brazilians don’t seem to have any trouble getting revved up for Christmas.

This year the decorating started early in November in some stores and our neighbors had flashing lights strung out on their balcony by mid-month. (Brazilians do have a thing about the full strand flashing lights; although thankfully icicle lights and the computerized twinklers that have several patterns of flash are becoming increasingly popular.) Most of the shopping centers and galleries are very decked out and daily I can look out from my balcony across the city and see more and more lights being added.

Last night we attended the opening celebration of the “Christmas Season” on a jam-packed street. Years ago a very distinguished family donated their factory to the city on the condition that it be maintained as a cultural center. It’s a very old lovely building that houses art galleries, a library and a municipal market. Last night shortly after dark, Santa Claus showed up and was presented a key to the city by the mayor. Then a switch was thrown and all at once the whole building lit up the night.

Even if you are a die-in-the-wool scrooge (like my husband) you couldn’t help but applaud. It was beautiful. Fireworks were shot off over our heads and to complete the awwww factor, 400 children poked their heads out of the windows and began caroling.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Brazilian celebration if it were not without its mix of problems. The street was dangerously packed and there was no crowd control. Looking down at a small child at my feet I started thinking about the thousands of pilgrims killed in hajj stampedes, except here Mecca was a badly costumed Santa Claus sweating profusely in the Brazilian summer heat. And as cute as the caroling children were, they were terribly out of tune and the sound system projecting their voices left C cringing and gnawing his cuticles.

But still, for a little Brazilian city it was a sight -- and hey! even for all it's hype, Rockefeller Center has nothing on us!

Actually this week I began leading English conversation classes and in several different classes the subject of Christmas in New York came up. I was asked if I missed the holidays there (of course I do) and is it really like it is in the movies (big fluffy white snow gently falling on cue on Christmas Eve and romantic ice skating in the shadow of that enormous tree with all the lights.) Sure I told them, sort of. Except the snow is never on time nor so amiable and the ice skating rink is actually tiny, overcrowded and stupidly expensive. Oh, and yeah, the tree is beautiful but it has always pained me that every year we have to go cutting down some really old tree to satiate some sort of desire for a mythic Hollywood Christmas. “What!” my students exclaimed, “the tree isn't planted there?! It's cut down? It doesn’t live there all year round?!” No, I told them, sadly it doesn’t. And with that many offered some disgruntled, under their breath commentary about how Americans love to point the finger at Brazilians for chopping up the rainforest, but seem to have no problem with their own culturally sanctioned destruction of big beautiful trees every year. Yeah, well… what could I say?

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