Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Argentina: Merry Christmas From Buenos Aires

Here`s sending warm and merry wishes to all for Christmas! One of the best presents we got from Santa was a visit from Eric`s parents to come help us deck the halls in Argentina. Bill and Leah left snowy conditions in Minnesota to land in nearly 100 degree heat in Buenos Aires, and they didn`t skip a beat. Even when we told them it was a cultural faux pas to wear shorts. Impressive! (And embarassing when we realized that actually, Argentines do wear shorts.)

We had a wonderful time sharing the city (and many laughs) with them. Best yet, they kindly shlepped over loads of essentials for us (favorite deodorants, guidebooks, and yummy homemade mint chocolate chip meringue cookies)! As luck would have it, our toilet broke the day before their arrival (!). Thank goodness for the hardware store on the corner, and Eric`s mastery of the mechanics.

Christmas traditions are a bit different here. People usually gather with their family for a Christmas Eve dinner at 9pm, then at midnight everyone sets off fireworks. They even stock a fireworks store outside the mall for easy access! Around 1am, the younger generation goes out to meet friends at bars and club and stays out all night. We don´t know how anyone gets any sleep in this country! Rest assured, we have a large supply of ear plugs. But when in Rome....

We joined our neighborhood locals at a corner restaurant to celebrate Christmas Eve. We arrived at 9pm, and of course we were nearly the first people there. Dinner was a long drawn-out affair that included popping champagne corks at midnight. As we walked back to our apartment, the sky was ringing with the boom of firecrackers and the din of all the car alarms they`d set off. We joined in the melee with sparklers on our deck. The night ended with a rendition of the Night Before Christmas written by Kathleen´s dad that had been specially delivered. It was a tear-jerker both in terms of laughter and sentiment. He`s clever that one! We were in a good position to spot Santa, as we were sleeping on the fold out couch in the living room (right next to the tree), but he was so quick and quiet that we missed seeing him again. He arrived with stockings full of goodies and little presents from home. It was perfect! Santa always gets it right.

On Christmas morning, we enjoyed Pan Dulce (somehow, Argentine fruit cake manages to be delicious!) and scrambled eggs followed by Eric´s family tradition of watching movies. For our Christmas dinner, we were a bit more challenged. Our oven seems to only have an on/off switch with no temperature control, so cooking a turkey seemed dubious at best. We opted instead for salmon and pasta with a dulce-de-leche cream pie. Kathleen was Leah`s souf-chef as she whipped together a delicious meal, and the gentleman did an admirable job with the dishes.

It`s funny the things you notice when you`re not at home for the holidays. Christmas is not nearly as commercialized in Buenos Aires, and you aren`t inundated with tunes, decor, and a shopping frenzy like you are at home. This is nice in many ways, as it feels more like a family holiday rather than a nonstop buying spree, but there were definitely a few things we missed. While usually we`re sick of musak Christmas tunes that begin right after Thanksiving, we missed hearing Christmas songs. There were none on the radio, and we found ourselves warbling them off-key ourselves while we trimmed our tree. We also yearned for the scent of a real Christmas tree. Here, they are all plastic and two-feet tall. More like a Charlie Brown Christmas. Also, Kathleen is sheepish to confess that she missed eggnog lattes, and we both missed the potluck season and music and book swaps. But mostly, we wished that ALL of our family and friends could be there. You were sorely missed.

As an interesting holiday aside, the friday after Christmas we met the gentleman who has been responsible for finding the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center for the last 25 years. Evidently he flies around New England in a helicopter scoping out the perfect specimen. Funny that.

Happy holidays to all!

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