Feliz Natal

What is it about Christmas in Brazil that makes it so disappointing?

To the casual observer there is much left to be desired in the displays mounted in Civic Centres and shopping areas. Where are the gaily decorated avenues lit brightly with a myriad of coloured lights?

Where are the Christmas trees surrounded by figures from Biblical scenes?

Stolen by the ever enterprising Brazilians would be the snide reply from seasoned Gringoes.

But never the less there are attempts to sell a commercial image of Christmas, at least in areas patrolled by security firms. The trouble is for we ex pats is that the gaudiness and lavish use of attention grabbing materials is somehow transposed into a parody of a parody. Instead of bringing a broad smile to our faces it results in merely a smirk, and a remark to the effect that,

“Why can’t they get anything right?”

Spurred on by the eager excitement and persistent demands of children we carry on undeterred in our search for gifts to satisfy our hungry brood. Here the sense of miss-giving deepens as we encounter cheap shoddy goods on offer at seasonally inflated prices and only partially rehabilitated by the free gift wrapping service.

In the shopping Malls and avenues we battle through crowds whose only intent appears to be to use the pavement, or sidewalk, as a conversation venue. The cheerful sounds of “Silent Night”, or ‘Little Child of Bethlehem”, seems very far away, in some other planet.

Finally entering the supermarket we heave a sigh of relief to find shelves groaning with food and drink, but where is the turkey? Where are the Christmas ready meals for the bachelor or senior citizen? Where are the advent calendars stuffed with choccy treats? Cheeseboards tastefully arranged beneath a sheath of cellophane? Crystallized fruits, cakes topped in marzipan and sugar coated Yule logs?

Our hearts heavy with the realization that Christmas Fare is never quite the same away from home, wherever that may be, we plod wearily back to our stable and recover some sense of satisfaction by cramming the refrigerator to its utmost capacity.

Then there is the weather. There are those of us who enjoy a baking hot day beneath an angry glaring sun. It somehow feels cathartic to rid the organism of deeply seated secretions that bubble to the surface and trickle to the ground where they are quickly absorbed into the dust. The skin rapidly loses its tell-tale “Brancino” pallor as we take on a bronzed tone burnished by body creams and languorous massage.

But what does this have to do with Christmas? Nothing at all, and we know it.

Deep within our psyche we long for the chill of ice, the soft enveloping blanket of snow, the spectacle of familiar scenes shrouded in an anonymity of whiteness.

Instead, we listen, with growing unease, as thunder proclaims the strength of power within an immense tower of blackness that is rearing upwards before us thrusting millions of gallons of water into the stratosphere to then crash onto the roof of our car in a flash of blinding light and a deluge of Biblical proportions!

Is this some kind of Divine retribution for our selfishness at a time when we should be celebrating the birth of Christ, or is this the final call to damnation for a city that would put both Sodom and Gomorrah to shame?

Our flirtation with Heavenly justice quickly evaporates as the waters recede and traffic again begins to move. The prospect of a city returning to normality, apparently untouched by the enormity of the Christmas festival, leaves us empty and unfulfilled.

Oh for a jolly “Yo Ho Ho !!!”, the blaze of excitement on children’s faces, a quiet fireside decked with a Season’s Greetings and the freshness of pine.

Perhaps we should only be disappointed in ourselves, for failing to understand that Christmas is not about the trappings or the wrappings, but is about what lies within us at this time of year. For all around us there are many for whom disappointment is an everyday occurrence that is lifted into obscurity by the celebration of Christmas, when families gather to celebrate a very special kind of love that is much closer to the emotion of the Nativity than is anything we are likely to know.

Merry Christmas Everybody!



© 2013 Alastair Kinghorn


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