Everyone in the Western Christian world is now wishing each other Happy Holidays. Whether you believe it or not, it is part of many people’s lives and it influences our calendar year. But how is it to spend Christmas in the southern hemisphere, where signs saying Let It Snow abound but the temperature is reaching 40 celsius? Our blog editor, who is currently back home in Brazil, shares her views about melting on Christmas and the breaks we all need to take sometimes.
As I sit here typing this the thermometer strikes 26 degrees celsius, a very VERY mild summer temperature in my book, as a Brazilian, but I know for a fact that in the UK, where I have been living for the past two years, this is considered to be proper summer. I am used to spending Christmas wearing a summer dress, wearing Havaianas flip-flops, crammed into a room at my grandma’s house singing Christmas carols and melting slowly. Even though this is the reality for most Brazilians, we, as many former colonies, are heavily influenced by European cultural practices. Many of our pretty traditional Christmas customs are actually Victorian, and German. But our current Santa Claus’s aesthetic is actually a Coca-Cola thing, a much more recent development. All of this was just to say that a lot of what we consider so traditionally Christmassy can actually be something really modern and imported.
In the glistening sun of Brazilian holiday weather, it is rather ironic to see little snowmen and reindeer and polar bears as summer decoration. Seeing signs which read Let it Snow everywhere, together with fake snow, White Christmas and all that kind of stuff while you could easily fry an egg on the pavement can be, in fact, hilarious. Brazilian shopping mall decorations for Christmas are notoriously kitsch (and sometimes downright scary!). We are used to it, to the weirdness of it all, we all stick a huge turkey in the oven, something which is not really harmonious in the heat. My German grandma in Brazil insists on baking mountains and mountains of Christmas cookies in her kitchen, in which, by itself, there is no need for an oven, as you could bake whatever you want in the hot air inside the kitchen. In this situation, I would easily call for some festive ice cream instead. Air New Zealand aired a funny ad a few years ago, offering an adapted take to the classic song Winter Wonderland. A recent ad pokes fun at famous gringo Christmas traditions and swaps them for the traditional Brazilian summery Christmas food and traditions. If you want to have an idea of how odd it all sounds to us Antipodeans, watch these, they are guaranteed fun.
As I see many colleagues and friends in the UK take some time off from last week until the new year, Brazilians are still powering through. There was never such a thing as taking most of December off. Most of the time you have classes until the 20th, 21st, then you have some time off on the 24th, and most people only have a proper day off on the 25th, then from the 26th on until the 31st in the afternoon, most businesses are open and people are working full-time in offices. This and the fact that I am here makes me confused as to when to take the much-needed time off. I struggle so much with this difference we have between summer and winter working patterns. A lot of the people reading this are now going into a sort of hibernation, while I am at the height of summer.
I used to say that it is impossible to think when the thermometer hits 15 or above… I now know how problematic it can be to say that, but I still personally struggle to read and write when the sun is frying outside and life is booming. Maybe what the weather is trying to tell me is actually to really take the time off that the time of the year asks for. Whatever your religion, your relationship to Christmas, having reached December especially in a year such as this is definitely exhausting. We all deserve to step back and look within, take care of ourselves, and redo our steps, our experiences, our thoughts. You might be doing this in front of the fireplace, sitting next to a radiator, going on a winter nature walk, eating mince pies and yule logs, or, in my case, you might be eating ice cream, yanking up the air conditioner and getting sunburnt by just opening your blinds.
How about you? Where are you spending this holiday time? Share with us!
Lúcia Collischonn is a third-year PhD student in Translation Studies at the Warwick Writing Programme. She is the editor of the library blogs: Study Blog and PhD Life. Lúcia is an award-losing literary translator, writer and language nerd. Her translation of Yoko Tawada’s Etüden im Schnee was published in 2019 in Brazil. You can find her ramblings on twitter @lucycolli.