Feliz Navidad?

23 Dec

In the USA, decorating for the holidays starts so early that you have to be living under a rock somewhere to not realize what time of year it is.  Cities have begun to put decorations on public streets earlier and earlier, while holiday music creeps into the background before the first snowfall in the northern states.

I am a true Colorado girl and it takes a certain mix of signals, including snow, egg nog and lots of blinking lights, to really get me in the Christmas spirit.  Here in Santiago?  Well, let’s just say I keep forgetting it’s even December.

First off, there’s blazing sunshine and sweltering heat every day.

Christmas spirit in the Santiago cemetery

Second, there are no trees.  Christmas trees I mean.  Even in NYC there were makeshift stands lined up along the Avenues starting as early as mid-November.  Practically anywhere with a small patch of floor space, be it an office building lobby, the supermarket, or the deli on the corner of 16th and 6th Ave, would have a tree up no later than the first week of December.  Interestingly enough, we saw quite a few miniature trees all decorated up during our trip to the main cemetery here in Santiago earlier this week.

Third, the traditional decorations are few and far between.  I’m used to seeing storefronts dripping with tinsel, lights and elaborate window displays. Storefronts that demand you spend your precious holiday dollars with them because they have exactly what you need and you can’t get it anywhere else.  Here? Well, every once in a while we see a paper Santa face (circa 1976) hung in a window.  In Valparaiso we were eating in a little restaurant and it took us the better part of an hour to notice the one solitary Christmas bulb hanging by a pathetic strand of garland at the top of the window.

I don’t mean to say there is NO holiday spirit to be seen in Santiago, I mean Chile is officially a Catholic country and Christmas is a national holiday here.  We have seen wrapping paper for sale in a few places, there was a display of decorations available for purchase at a local market, and we heard the Spanish version of ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’ at the supermarket a week ago.  It’s just that our senses haven’t been assaulted with holiday cheer like they would be at home.

We have, however, seen Santa in a few surprising places.

Santa decorations were spotted in Lima, Peru at the very beginning of November!

It's too hot for reindeer in Valparaiso, so Santa rides the boat like the rest of us.

The economic downturn has apparently extended it's reach to the North Pole as evidenced by the fact that Santa is moonlighting with Groupon to help pad his income.

How will we be spending our Christmas?  Since most everything will be closed, we’ll be cooking at home (helllloooo grilled pork tenderloin with homemade mango and apple chutney…and this, recipe is at the end of the post), sampling a traditional Chilean holiday drink called Cola de Mono (kind of like a White Russian, or a Mudslide), skyping with family, and watching the season finale of Dexter online.

Happy Holidays, wherever you may be!

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7 Responses to “Feliz Navidad?”

  1. Heather Cooper December 23, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Growing up Catholic, we never put a tree or decorations up until a day or two before Christmas, and kept everything up through Epiphany. I can’t handle the overwhelming barrage these days that starts around Halloween – it actually makes me grumpier about the holidays because it just doesn’t seem very special! Maybe I need to start spending holidays in other parts of the world…

    • Ashley December 23, 2011 at 9:56 am #

      It’s fascinating because generally, I feel the exact same way. It’s so overwhelming that it becomes irritating. Being somewhere that doesn’t have quite as much “in your face” cheer has been both strange, and refreshing. We mostly only notice/comment on it when we randomly see something holiday related, or when we we get onto facebook and see everyone posting about Christmas.

      • Heather Cooper December 23, 2011 at 10:01 am #

        Maybe you’ll encounter some surprising Christmas tradition or ritual this weekend. Last spring I watched the Greek Orthodox Easter unfold before my eyes in the streets of Astoria. It was really neat. Have a great one!

  2. Eggton December 23, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    Hello! This sounds like a wonderful Christmas. Wonderful! It’s pretty hot here on the East Coast of the U.S. too, which is weirding me out. Happy Holidays! And that apple chutney sounds awesome. Let me know if you wind up adding anything else to the brownie recipe and would suggest any changes. I didn’t put peppermint extract into the icing, but you could definitely put a little icing in a bowl with some peppermint extract and see if that’s something you’d want to do to the whole batch … Take care!!

    • Ashley December 23, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

      Thanks! I’ll definitely let you know if anything spectacular happens. We’re having issues finding some of the ingredients (read: half of them, including the candy cane/peppermint sticks) but I have faith that a Christmas Miracle will prevail and we WILL have delicious frosted brownies!

  3. Col. Sanders December 23, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    mmmmmm…….groupon taxi

    • Ashley December 23, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

      The funniest part about your comment is that I had to re-explain to Justin why it’s funny!

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