So, my first Christmas in Brasil has come and gone. With all the lead up to the holiday, I figure it’s only fair to now write about how the actual day(s) went. As you all know, I was having a bit of difficulty during the 2 or so weeks before Christmas. Homesickness had hit me like a bus… a big Brazilian city bus with horn blaring. There was no escaping that this was now very real and very different. The weather that I had praised for being relatively cool and easing me into my transition had turned on me and started to soar into the 90s. That wasn’t even hot hot for here but was most definitely not my idea of December. To be honest, I think the thing I was missing most were the feelings that come with winter and cold. The idea of going inside, getting warm and being cozy. Warmth, hearth, eggnog and Christmas sweaters were replaced by heat, fans, coconut water and flip-flops. Nothing felt right. Sure, there were Christmas classics playing on TV but seeing snowmen and Santa in pounds and pounds of clothing while I myself was sweating felt like a special tropical themed episode of the Twilight Zone. I alone could feel in my heart the cold, snowy yet warm inside goodness of Christmas while outside people were planning beach trips. Also, if I tried to tell my troubles to friends and family back home, it was as if I was speaking an alien language to them as well. “What, it’s summer down there? We just had a frost. Have fun on the beach. You’re so lucky” But I didn’t feel lucky. I felt a disconnect growing. Points of reference were becoming obscured. It’s hard to remember or really feel winter when the sun is blaring outside and vice versa. You know that logically yes somewhere out there is different but maybe it’s different like a dream, a game or an increasingly fuzzy memory. It’s not quite viscerally real. So, that’s where I found myself… knowing that once there had been something different, feeling alone and unable to properly communicate my feelings, which only increased my feelings of isolation.
Slowly my cloud began to clear bit by bit ( I started to discuss this in my last post). I decided I had to be where I was. Really be here. Sure it was going to be different, but it was what is was. I’d do better to accept it and find the good in it. Often this is something that is much easier said then done, but this time for me it seemed to work. I began to find pleasure in the food (especially the rabanada, which is kind of like french toast without syrup and lots of cinnamon and sugar. It’s mostly served and sold around Christmas and New’s Year. I, however, think it should be year round goodness). I started to smile at the different traditions and to really in all honesty be right where I was. When Christmas Eve rolled around, I was happy to open presents then instead of Christmas day and I looked forward to sitting down to a dinner of cod. Do I like cod? No. Actually, it makes my stomach go a little funny but what I did like was the feeling of family and togetherness. Sure it was hot outside but they were the same feelings I had had in America.I can’t call it cozy but I can tell you that that moment was good.
My birthday is the day after Christmas. So, for me the entire holiday season is an especially big deal. It’s my biggest deal of the year really. This year at midnight on the 25th, I found myself in an apartment in Botafogo with almost a dozen of MGFI”s friends and family. One approached me with a candle on top of a chocolate Panetone (a Brazilian Christmas staple that I think originates in Italy. It’s kind of like fruit cake… but not really at all. It’s cake with fruits in it and sometimes chocolate. It’s more cakey then fruitcake and actually enjoyable to eat). They all surrounded me and sang to me brasileiro style. The Brazilian version of the Happy Birthday song seems much more celebratory to me. The repetition of my name at the end along with clapping really made me feel special. It felt like that was in fact my day. If you ask me, it’s the way a birthday should be. I then looked around surrounded by new friends and new family and I realized I was home. It’s a new home, yes but it’s mine now and I like it… maybe that was all the beer and vodka talking but it was what I felt. I slept that night in a blissful quasi drunken stupor and awoke to more “Parabens!”. Sober but hungover I found that I was still happy. I am still happy.
Now back to Rio and Copacabana for Réveillon with my new underwear and white clothes. It’s traditional to wear all white for New Year’s and also to buy new undies with a color signifying what you want in your life for the upcoming year. Red is love, white is for purity and peace, pink is a combination of both, think happy love and so on. New Year’s Eve is apparently big doings around these parts. There are fireworks and gifts put into the sea for Iemanjá, who is the queen of the ocean and an orixa (akin to a saint in the African religions). The gifts are usually white flowers, jewelry, perfume, mirrors and lipstick among other things because she is reportedly very vain. The people send the gifts out in the hopes that their wishes will be granted by Iemanja. If they don’t wash back up on shore, you’re good. I can’t wait to see it all. I’ll let you know how it went next week!
Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas/ Holiday Season wherever you are or spent it. Have a wonderful new year. May it be your best year yet! I’m hoping it will be for me.
Before I leave… here’s some Happy New Year wishes from Globo (sure, they’re really still a monopoly, have had a questionable history in terms of political influence and possible brainwashing but… well it’s still entertainment… and Xuxa there’s!! haha) –