The Christmas celebrations here in Chile really start on the 24th when families gather in the afternoon or early evening to go to church. My Chilean host family had plans to head up to el cerro (or Cerro Castillo in Viña, where the grandparents lived). There is a church close by and we all had plans to attend the ceremony. Of course, in Chilean style, we were running late and thus by the time we got to the church there were no seats left and there was a crowd of people standing outside. I couldn’t hear a thing, and I wasn’t too keen about attending a Catholic mass anyway, so my host sister and I returned to the grandparent’s house where we hung out and took pictures before everyone arrived.
(Me and Florencia hanging out before the festivities began--Dec. 24, 2006)
Once everyone gets home from church, it is time for a feast. My host-grandparents are known for have weekly feasts on Sunday afternoon lunches, so just imagine how much food was there for Christmas Eve! Basically, after stuffing ourselves, some of the men took a nap and the rest of us hung out and socialized until midnight rolled around. Unlike in the States where parents try to get the kids to go to bed as soon as possible on Christmas Eve, in Chile midnight is just the start of the party. When the clock chimes 12, Santa might stop by the house (as he did in ‘06), and presents are to be opened. Depending on the size of the get-together, this can take hours. In fact, I ended up leaving the Christmas celebration a bit early (around 1:00am) to spend the rest of the holiday with Christian. We went back to his apartment to open up our gifts to each other.
(A few days before Christmas, Christian and I baked my mom's traditional
holiday cookies, called bizcochitos. They are SO delish!)
It was a wonderful Christmas, and completely Chilean (except for the cookie part). I was able to Skype with my parents on Christmas night as well as some other relatives that were visiting my parent’s house. Man do I love Skype....what did people do before the internet and webcams?
Moving onto this Christmas, well it is a 180 degree difference from the previous Christmas—which we spent splendidly in the States—was so A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. that I don’t know if we’ll ever have another Christmas that is on the same level. We thoroughly enjoyed being in Colorado with my family, we got engaged on Christmas morning, we spent New Years bowling with my parents, and we ate the best food ever. So, following that Christmas is a toughy. For one thing, Christian and I are in Chile and we only get half a day on the 24th off of work and the 25th as a holiday. We are saving up our vacation for the wedding in June, so we both have to return to work on Friday the 26th, thus leaving us little time to travel to Viña. We decided it’d just be best if we celebrate the two of us here in Santiago, making a desayuno gringo (of course)—complete with mimosas—and enjoying our first Christmas together as a family. We are also going to do Christmas the way my family does it—open one present on Christmas Eve and save the rest of the presents for Christmas morning after Santa has visited!!! Lucky for us, Santa already visited my parent’s house in CO and they sent along the presents he gave us with the presents they were sending us.
Can’t you just see the grin on my face when I opened the box to find all of these presents that they weren’t supposed to be sending? (We had previously decided they would just send something small as to not waste money on shipping.) It was a total surprise and in the words of my Dad, they wanted to “give us a mini-Rye Christmas (like the one from last year) but proportional to our Christmas tree (which is iddy-biddy)”. How cute/wonderful is that? It is the small things like that which make me miss my family even more!!! I really wish we could all be together this Christmas, but alas we will have to resort to our friend Skype. It will be strange to have such a tranquil holiday season, but considering I don’t have any vacation, I definitely need a bit of a rest. Plus I think it is important for Christian and I to start making our own traditions as well (most of which will come from my previous Christmas celebrations I think).
You are probably wondering where my husband’s family is in this whole holiday picture? Well, to be honest, they aren’t much for celebrating Christmas in general. When I was spending time with my host family in 2006, Christian had a family dinner with his mom, dad, and sister (who has the same name as my sister!). But that was about it. They don’t normally give gifts, and do not have that custom. So, for us to spend Christmas here just us isn’t a big deal to the rest of the family. Plus we plan on going to Viña for New Years to see the badass fireworks and hang out with his family.
As for my Christmas shopping...well, I’m a bit behind. Normally I’m pretty good about getting my gifts well ahead of time, as well as sending out cards and making any sort of little crafts to give to my extended family members. Last year, I made some magnets from some beautiful pictures of Chile that I had taken. They turned out really well for being DIY. This year, I just mailed out a few cards on Monday and I just got my family’s gifts via the internet, but we still have to shop for my suegros and cuñada. But no DIY crafts, unfortunately. Christian and I have one bought each other one gift so far, both of which we are already using, hahaha. I need to think of a surprise for him though....hmmm. I’m going to go ponder that now. More to come on my slight obsession with Christmas later.
Until then, you should check out the other bloggers who wrote on the same topic: