December 8th is a special day in Argentina. While Catholics celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary with masses and processions, some simply enjoy the day off as it is a bank holiday. But the real excitement, especially for children, is that Christmas trees go up today.
I remember that when my siblings and I were little we would pester our mother to go find the tree and let us decorate it. We held our breath when the star (or angel) was out at the top. It was a fun day, a prelude of even more exciting things to come. Every night, my mother would light up the tree and I can still see the reflection of the multicoloured lights on the white wall.
We use artificial Christmas trees in Argentina, probably because the wooded areas are relatively small and very far from big cities. It is much easier to buy a tree that you can fold up and put away and not have to worry about pine needles falling on the carpet! And since it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, we are not familiar with the smell of pine trees and snow.
The next big day is Christmas Eve, when families get together for a big dinner that includes some European traditions introduced by immigrants. We eat, drink and make merry until midnight, when we have a toast and open the presents. Christmas Day lunch is a much quieter affair as most people are still recovering from the revelries of the previous night.
We have a week to get ready for yet another big event: New Year’s Eve. More food, more drink, more fireworks at midnight. More liver salts the next day! Just as Christmas Day lunch, New Year’s Day lunch is a subdued affair too.
The festive season draws to a close on January 6th. Children get more presents, this time left by the Magi. It’s time to put the tree away until the next December.
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