With that disclaimer of sorts now out of the way, lets talk about Christmas!
I will be honest and say that to me without cold weather it just doesn't seem like the season to be jolly. Here it is hot and clammy and not very Christmassy at all. The missus rained scorn on me when I told her this as for her it doesn't seem like Christmas when it is cold.
But it's not just the weather here that makes the season less festive. If I look down the street we live on, or even go down to the lake, there is not one house with decorations on. In fact the only place there are decorations is on the high street where all the shops are. In an effort to try and show these to you I went on a late night photo spree (despite the very unfestive man standing outside a shoe shop with a big 'hitting' stick attached to his wrist). Unfortunately the battery was dead before I started though. Nevertheless I had my trusty Vado on me and managed to video these somewhat meager decorations despite looking like a complete prat.
Very jolly indeed eh? The only house that I have seen with decorations was someone who was relatively wealthy. They had a fake Christmas tree and some angels about. Still it was at least a start. I assumed from this that decorations were solely for people with a bit of money and possibly more of a prestige thing.
Even on TV (although I am by no means fluent in Portuguese) there doesn't seem to be much acknowledgement of Christmas. There are no carols, no one seems to mention it, and it is only today that I have noticed that the kids programs have some decorations on it. There wasn't any build up, they've only just arrived now. Where's the excitement in that?
Maybe it's because Christmas day seems less important here. Christmas Eve is the major festive day in most Catholic countries as far as I'm aware. This is because the actual coming of the 'Lord' is deemed more important than him actually arriving. I guess it is somewhat similar to an excited kid at Christmas - the excitement of getting a toy is far better than recieving it as after a while you just get bored of it anyway. The three kings, the shepherds, Mary and Joseph must have thought when there wasn't an angelic choir singing, or an incandescent light flowing forth from Mary's nether regions as the baby Jebus popped out 'oh... that was a bit of a let down... it's just a baby... let's not forever remember this in the annals of history'.
That little diversion aside in which I blasphemed about the nativity, Christmas Eve is a time when all the family gets together and has a party. They stay up late drinking beer and cachaca, listening to music, and generally having a good time. It's nice. Tonight we're having among other things the delectable Chica Doida which is mostly sweetcorn, mozzarella, and calabreza sausage. We will be staying up until 12am when we can welcome in Christmas Day.
I guess that there are reasons for all of these things. Namely because there are probably better things to spend money on then decorations and festivity. Although Brazil is in no way similar to their poverty stricken, military ruled days in the 80's, the culture of saving the money for something else does not seem to have changed. I know that in some other cities here they do make a big thing of the decorations (Sao Paolo and Rio), but they're cities with money. Here in Quirinopolis I can perfectly understand that they may want to be a bit more spendthrift about things and fix a road instead. Without sounding too cheesy, people here love the company of other people. There is rarely a moment when you don't see people talking to their neighbours, and indeed you rarely see anyone listening to personal stereos in the street (I suspect this is because Brazilians would much rather share their music and not exclude anyone). In this sense, to Brazilians Christmas is probably more about the people you have around you and just having a good time regardless of the presents and the decorations.
That said however, for me it is still less magical and more like a normal day, but I guess each to their own. Who knows, maybe in time Brazil will start to lose their culture towards spending money on decorations as the gap between the rich and the poor decreases and the economy continues to boom. But until that time Christmas here will continue in the spirit of the people.
Merry Christmas to all and to all those in Europe with snow, you lucky, lucky bastards.