Monday, 26 December 2011
I have to say that (apart from the golden period of childhood up to the age of about six), with its months of expectation, commercialism and frenetic scrummage, I have nearly always found the traditional British approach to Christmas something of a disappointment and a depressing anti-climax; especially when the summer holiday adverts on the TV start before the last mouthful of pudding has gone down. I have also come to detest the thought of cold weather; the rain here is relentless at the moment and the summer is a kind of rainy season but at least it's warm rain.
Summer on the beach always struck me as an odd phenomenon but now it just seems 'normal'; not that we actually go on the beach much; maybe because we are always, but for the road, within reach and sight of the beach. However, I guess emigrants question things that they used to take for granted and challenge the received wisdom of their upbringings in a way that most people never do. That has been liberating: you really don't have to eat certain, prescribed foods on Christmas Day and, moreover, some of them (such as frozen turkey) are, actually, rather horrid.
There is certainly less commercialism about the Christmas season in Brazil than in Europe; maybe because they celebrate certain other days in a similar way but we were invited to what was nearly a midnight feast, on Christmas Eve, at the house of a mother of a friend: an enormous table was heaped with what used to be called a 'cold collation' of Edwardian proportions: meats and fowls of various kinds with accompanying fruits and sauces, as well as cinnamon bread, bacalau (salted cod), and various accompanying side dishes (including chestnuts!). The friend's mother and her daughters must have catered that night for around forty people. This is a practice of hospitality in a private household on a scale which our great grandparents might have known but it is largely lost to Europe.
In the midst of all the feasting and the conversation, I sensed very clearly the proper Spirit of Christmas Present and remembered something too of my very youthful Christmases Past.
Posted by NJS at 11:50