Will it be an Argentine or a British Christmas this year?

By Tracey Chandler

What’s it like to be in Argentina at Christmas and how does it differ to Christmas in the UK. Tracey shares her memories of the London Christmas and how getting festive in Argentina is sometimes similar and sometimes very, very different.

Living in another country can fill your life with intrigue and uncertainty. Sometimes you can feel akin to your new surroundings and embrace the changes with fervour and at other times the differences that you experience can make you feel homesick. Christmas is one of those times of the year when cultural differences become more prominent.

Originally from London, life over the past four years in Argentina has opened my eyes to a number of things and even though I love living in South America, there’ll never be anything that can compare to Christmas in London for me.

So why are things so different? What would you experience in Argentina at Christmas time that you wouldn’t find in London and vice versa? Here’s my personal take on the Argentine / British Christmas divide…

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, How lovely are your Branches!
One of the common aspects between the Argentine and the British Christmas is the tree. Dressing the Christmas tree with tinsel, baubles and lights is a festive act enjoyed in both countries and one that really indicates the pending arrival of Christmas. However, there are some basic differences:

  1. In Britain, Christmas tree decorating (and decorations in general, actually) reach a state of madness not seen in Argentina. “Oh Christmas Tree” is a popular song about the Christmas Tree that can be heard all over the country on the radio and in stores in the lead up to Christmas.
  2. Christmas Trees and decorations are seen all over the country in the UK. The number of lights in public places and in people’s homes is just intoxicating. In Argentina, the tree and decorations are around, but the hype achieved is nothing in comparison.
  3. The Christmas Tree in Argentina is traditionally armed on the 8th December (The Day of The Virgin Mary) and in Britain, the tradition is to arm the tree 12 days before Christmas and take it down before 12 days after have passed – unless you want to risk inviting bad luck into your life. However, the common factor is that hardly anybody follows this rule in either country. This year, I saw a few Christmas Trees in supermarkets before we even reached December and in Britain it gets quite ridiculous, with stores putting up their decorations in the early days of November!
 Food’s Up

Traditional Christmas lunch / dinner in Argentina is the famous and tasty asado (at least, this is what I have experienced at Christmas time here). In Britain we roast a huge turkey, there’ll be roasted bacon, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, onions, boiled vegetables, stuffing, sausage meat, cranberry sauce and, of course, gravy! Not sure what any of this is, write in to Connecting Worlds and we will be happy to fill you in 🙂

Dessert might be ice-cream, turron, choco-torta or some other kind of dessert, smothered somehow in dulce de leche, but in Britain we must have the traditional Christmas pudding, covered in Brandy and set light to when it is served! That’s a site worth seeing and gets me feeling festive every time. We must have Christmas Cake (that the kids love to ice and decorate a few days beforehand), Dundee Cake with flaked almonds on top, hot custard, mince pies, double cream and brandy sauce, if you’re really lucky.

Keeping it Traditional
There are some interesting and lovable traditions that we always enjoy in the UK and that I do miss when in Argentina. These include:

  1. The Christmas Advent Calendar – On December 1st, children open up a little window on a calendar specially made for the lead-up to Christmas. Behind the window will either be a Christmas picture (or nowadays a Christmas chocolate) and the children open up one window every day until Christmas Eve. Lots of fun!
  2. Christmas Crackers – at dinner time, it is very traditional to pull the Christmas Cracker (full of a Christmas joke, a Christmas toy or keepsake, a Christmas paper party hat in the shape of a crown – so British! – and perhaps even a chocolate or sweet of some kind. You pull the cracker with the person sitting next to you, the cracker will bang open and the person with the larger half gets to have all the wonderful goodies inside just described. Happy times!
  3. Christmas TV is also really important to the modern British Christmas now. Whilst sat at home, in the warm and out of the rain and the snow, the TV must be good! There’s always a selection of old Christmas classic movies, Christmas movies about Santa Claus for the children, a James Bond movie normally features somewhere in the line-up and you can bet that something big will happen in all the TV soaps’ storylines to keep the British masses entertained on their sofas over the festive break.

One similarity that I have noticed about Argentine and British Christmases is the love of board games (juegos de mesa). Argentines love to get the cards out at Christmas and play other games together around the table. This too is a big deal for most households in modern Britain and a way for family and friends to come together and smile at the end of the year.

I love this familiarity!

It’s all about the Weather
In Argentina, it’s normally about 30 degrees and in Britain it never reaches double figures at Christmas time and might even drop below zero on a particularly cold year. The sun is shining in Argentina whilst the snow is falling on my family in London. The difference in weather affects the way in which the holiday is celebrated and I still don’t know which one I prefer.

Snow is pretty and it has a very particular charm about it, but I have really enjoyed celebrating Christmas out in the back garden with friends. Perhaps it doesn’t seem right that Santa Claus cannot drive his sledge because there’s no snow to glide along on, but hot summer nights certainly do put a smile on your face.

Christmas all over The World
What’s Christmas like in the country you were born in? How does it differ to the UK and Argentina? Do write in and share your stories with us!

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