Christmas with an Argentine Family

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Traveling during the holidays is always a difficult time for an expatriate no matter what country he/she comes from, but if you take advantage of the time, it is a great opportunity to learn the customs of a different culture and experience a new holiday! First of all, in the beginning of 2012 I would never have imagined myself living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but if you are like me, you also don’t know where you will end up by tomorrow. With an open mind your possibilities are endless and so that is how I spent Christmas 2012 in a very unlikely place, Buenos Aires, Argentina. During Christmas Eve and Christmas in Argentina, I had the luxury of living with an Argentine family that generously invited me to all of their family events, including Christmas Eve with their entire family. Christmas Eve happened to be one of the hottest days in Buenos Aires, with a sweltering 45 degrees Celsius. Yet all 20 of us still gathered in the grandmother’s apartment in Retiro, unfortunately her apartment did not have air conditioning so we all passed around hand fans to keep ourselves sane in the insufferable humidity. The evening started casually with drinks and small talk around the table, then appetizers of fried zucchini were passed around. After those delicacies, the main courses including many cold salads and "pionono" which consists of canned tuna mixed with mayo, green and black olives, sweet peppers, and a small amount of thin banana slices, all rolled inside of a breading. I was not accustomed to the types of food being served, but all the same, I tried everything that was offered because I didn’t want to miss out on any of the Argentine specialties.

After filling up on all of the different dishes, we went downstairs to make the midnight mass service at the church below, but strangely enough the church was closed! So we went back to the apartment just in time for midnight. Midnight is when all of the presents are brought out from hiding and handed to each recipient. It was exciting to watch the faces of the children when they received their presents and began immediately playing. I was very surprised when the mother of the family I was living with handed me a present. She had bought me a beautiful turquoise hair clip, which are very popular among the women in Buenos Aires to hold back their mile long hair. Everybody had opened their presents and it was time for the next course- dessert. Small chocolate cakes with dulce de leche on the inside formed into “popsicles” were a huge hit! Of course there was also pan dulce (sweet bread) which is another traditional food during Christmas time in Argentina. While dessert was being digested, a political discussion started brewing. No evening is finished until there is talk of politics, everybody has his own opinion and everybody is very opinionated.

As Christmas Eve quickly became Christmas day, everything started dying down around 3am and the heat became exhaustive so we piled into the car and drove back home. I will always carry fond memories with me of Christmas in Argentina. I am also ever grateful to the host family for allowing me to become a temporary member of their family and treating me as their own daughter.

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