Christmas and New Year in foreign climes

January 2, 2009

The festive season is always less exciting when you are older than it was when you were a child, and with my family now spread out across Europe (or no longer alive) I wasn’t to worried about spending Christmas in Peru rather than trying to get back to the UK.   This Christmas was the second I had spent outside of the UK (having been in Spain with Mum and Anna last year) and it was quite a different experience! 

Firstly the decorations – they are everywhere as they are at home, but generally much more tasteful – peoples’ houses look gorgeous with all the white lights and an ocasional nativity.  I saw one inflatable Christmas tree decoration and NO Father Christmas ones.  In fact I barely saw a father Christmas – there was one in Wong (of course) – he doesn’t really feature in the Peruvian Christmas.  Christmas trees are a problem here though.  To say I hate artificial trees is far too mild a term to really cover my feelings.  I loathe their plasticy, uniform, ‘this is what shape a pine tree SHOULD be’, odourless banality.   Of course you can’t get real trees here.  So instead I had a christmas pot plant.  Sandra had bought me some Peruvian baubles as part of my Christmas present and I grabbed a discounted box from Wong on Christmas eve.  I couldn’t find any tinsel anywhere – I may have to import some… and by the time I got round to getting decorations most shops had stopped selling them anyway (the decorations go up in early to mid December here rather than Christmas eve like in my house!) so I didn’t manage to get any lights 😦 .  I still had an Angel that mum had  bought for me from Turkey to go on the top of the ‘tree’ so it wasn’t all bad!  I also have a little Peruvian nativity (another present from Sandra) 


Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree...

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree...

Secondly the temperature – I am from the Northern hemisphere, I am used to Christmas in the winter, short days, long nights, cold weather and at least the possibility of snow at some point during the holiday.  I just couldn’t quite get into the festive spirit as I did my Christmas shopping on Christmas eve in 3/4 length trousers, a t-shirt, sunnys and factor 50 sun lotion.  Somehow it just doesn’t feel right.  Especially weird for me is that they use snowflakes for christmas decorations even though it has never snowed in Lima, ever, and seeing snow when it’s hot is just odd!


Thirdly Christmas itself – I spent Christmas with Marco’s family at his house (but rather irritatingly forgot to take my camera…)  Christmas in Peru is all done and dusted by 3am Christmas morning as it starts on Christmas eve at midnight!  This seemed very odd to me as I was sat in my flat, having wrapped my presents, waiting to be picked up at 9.30 pm (obviously the original time I’d been given was 7.30 pm but this is Peru).  I think we actually left the house about 10.30 and went to Marco’s where his Mum and sisters were busy cooking turkey, some kind of mince, apple sauce, beetroot salad and Turkish rice.  They had some fireworks (bangers), bought off men in the street, (which to me looked incredibly dangerous but they happily allowed he kids to carry them around the house) which they set off after midnight in their front yard, and sparklers which they let the kids have in the house – I am frequently amazed that anyone in Peru reaches adulthood!

At midnight we all said ‘Feliz Navidad’ and then Marco’s mum went through a weird ritual where she took the baby jesus doll out of it’s box, carried it round to everyone (who made a wish, then kissed the doll and then crossed themselves) and then placed the doll in the centre of the nativity scene.  I had a bizzare conversation trying to explain why I wasn’t going to kiss the doll or make any wishes over it, but that yes I did believe in God and I AM a christian and we do have Jesus in the non-Catholic world… in Spanish.  I really wish Marco had given me some advanced warning on that one!  We then drank champagne and opened the presents and then (at around 1am) sat down to eat Christmas dinner.  Watching two children, who were so tired that they could barely keep their eyes open, being forced to eat a full dinner at 1 am seemed a little like child cruelty to me.  Still, it was delicious food!  Unlike home there were no games, no cards, no Trivial Persuit, no Monopoly, no  Cluedo, just talking and eating.


Then I went home to bed and slept until 1pm on Christmas day!  I was amazed at how many bodegas and other shops were open on Christmas day and how many people were out in the park, sat in Starbucks  etc.  it was very strange for me!


New year was a quiet affair – a few of Marco’s friends came round to my appartment (at 1130pm), let some fireworks off from my balcony and had a drink and a chat and played with Sophia.  There were a LOT of fireworks being set off – it seems to be traditional here (but I suppose if you don’t have bonfire night you need an excuse some other time!) and I got a great view of them all from my balcony!  They left at about 3 am and tidied up themselves before they left.  Bonus!

Plans for the start of the year include going on holiday with Kevin and Lorna who come out in 4 days time 🙂  then either trying to book a last minute holiday to the Galapogos islands or somewhere in Latin America, or maybe doing an intensive Spanish course.  I have a lot of coursework to mark and a scheme of work to write too.  At the moment it seems like I have forever to worry about work, but I know that if I don’t try to get at least SOME of it started soon I’ll be doing it at 3 am the day before the marks are due…


One comment

  1. Very cool Christmas post 🙂 Since you have so much free time these days, I’ve tagged you http://tinyurl.com/a86z8u

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