This is the first time I spent Christmas in the UK and without my mum, but it has not been sad or lonely! I have befriended some nice international PhD mates and we organised a Christmas dinner on the 24th. Also, both my boyfriend and my brother came to visit me and spend a few days in the South of England, and it has been great! In this post, I am going to talk about the differences between my holiday experiences back home and here.
Firstly, and of course it is my first subject, the weather and the climate have the most dramatic differences between home and here. I must repeat this every time: in Rio de Janeiro Christmas is during the summer! That is not because we celebrate this holiday in July but because Brazil is in the Southern Hemisphere and our Winter is on June, July and August and our Summer is on December, January, February (and March, April…). it is amazing how many British people and Europeans take their seasons for granted. Saying that is like Australia or New Zealand is a funny way to remind them of this difference using countries they are used to know!
On the other hand, television and film from Britain, Europe and the USA always remind Brazilians and Latin Americans of how Christmas might (or should) be cold and snowy. We watched Home Alone, Nightmare Before Christmas (my personal favourite) or Grinch during this period also in Brazil, expecting some snow but we never get it. So it is amazing to really spend Christmas with pine trees, long nights and cold weather after so many years living in Rio!
Although it can be very busy during the festive periods, Christmas time in Rio is a good time to spend tanning on the beach and I am so pale after three months in England by this point! But we do have some family traditional events in Brazil we usually have to attend. I was used to spending time with my core family (my parents and my brothers) having dinner on 24th December and we would also exchange presents on that night. On 25th December we used to visit my extended family. Christmas food in Brazil is usually turkey with some rice and farofa, which is cassava flour mixture, as side-dish.
Here in the UK this year we only had international people for our Christmas dinner: Brazilian, Romanian and Singaporean nationals. Although we had some potatoes, there was almost no English or British food. Paola was the cook and host responsible and she made us some delicious lamb with blue cheese grated baked potatoes. She also cooked risotto for the vegetarians. We had lemon mousse as dessert and a lot of wine throughout. It was such a delicious dinner and a wonderful time together!
In the UK there is also another tradition that does not make sense for many Brazilians, it’s the Boxing Day. This is not a holiday back home, but it is celebrated on 26th in here. People go to stores looking for reduction deals on Christmas gifts that were leftovers(?), so prices are really cheap! It’s like Black Friday, so it has super long queues early in the morning and busy sales websites. I believe consumerism is stronger in this country than it is back home. I am not a huge fan of Christmas in general because it has been reduced to shopping and consuming in many places, and family reunion has been relegated to secondary importance. Hopefully, we can rescue some of this community Christmas soon.
The university is closed during this week, except for the Library that is 24/7/365 and the gym. However, yesterday I went to the office to do some work – and I have got swap access to the building during out-of-office hours, so I was able to get in. But since there was no expectation that anyone would go to the office in this period, the heating was not turned on and I was FREEZING. So today I decided to blog from home. 😊
Thanks for reading!