CHRISTMAS / NATAL
1) Alcohol consumption – whereas Christmas Day for many in the United Kingdom starts with a mother of all hangovers, Brazilian boozing is of the “aperitif, anyone?” or the “whoops I must stop now, my nose is tingling” variety, not the headlong dash towards oblivion so popular in northern climes;
2) Family gatherings – unlike many British Christmases, Brazilian family gatherings are generally warm, joyous occasions, with plenty of unisex hugging, kissing and arm squeezing going on throughout proceedings, accompanied by lots of shouting and generalised chaos. Distant uncles from the north of the country don’t tend to get wiped on whisky and challenge the other male members of the family to a fight, whilst keenly expressing the opinion that they are, quote unquote, “the hardest bastard in this family.” Distant uncles from the posh side of the family, that is;
3) Christmas Eve – as mentioned above, Christmas Eve in Great Britain is often a time for getting soaked in the local pub with friends whilst taking the opportunity to try it on one more time with that none-too-shoddy ex-schoolmate who still appears to be single. This is optionally followed by a bendy-limbed walk to Midnight Mass at the nearest church, which, quite apart from the obvious spiritual advantages, offers a chance to keep warm for half an hour after the pubs shut before your befuddled amble home;
4) Christmas Day – whereas Brazilians exchange presents and tuck into turkey and all the trimmings on Christmas Eve at around midnight, we Brits leave festivities to the twenty-fifth, when we gorge like escaped prisoners and collapse into comfortable furniture for the Queen’s speech, the movie magic of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang / The Sound of Music, and doze off during one or both. Brazilian TV is generally so dire that the natives just tend to eat, shout and generate more alcohol-free chaos on the big day, especially if somebody plays a musical instrument. The presence of a deck of cards ensures a riotous round of Truco, a card game whose main objectives, as far as I can fathom them, are to shout, feign an intriguing facial tick, throw your cards around pretty much at random and bellow at your opponents between hands;
5) Boxing Day – the twenty-sixth in the British Isles is the time where people relax, eat and drink more and sit/snooze for long periods, much as Sumo wrestlers do to maintain their fighting weights. Brazilians, on the other hand, show uncustomary enterprise by getting straight back to work on this day, whilst setting aside some of their worktime to phone around making arrangements for New Year celebrations and/or Carnaval.
6) Christmas music – in the southern hemisphere you will not hear The Pogues vs Kirsty MacColl, Shakin’ Stevens, Wham! or Slade tunes broadcast on Christmas radio shows, though you maybe be subjected to a deeply unfortunate Portuguese reworking of Lennon’s seminal Happy Xmas (War Is Over). When I seize control of the means of communication, this will all change;
7) Christmas cards / presents – it may be something to do with the state of their respective economies, but Brazilians do not generally feel the same obligation as residents of the UK to buy tat for every participant of the Christmas festivities. Children receive gifts, and you may be lucky enough to receive one if you participate in a nefarious Secret Santa plot. Brazilians economise enormously on trees at Christmas, as they have not yet been propagandised into sending the equivalent of a small eucalyptus forest in Christmas cards to everyone whom they’ve ever met, worked with, or with whom they have been involved in a minor road traffic accident, muppet or otherwise;
8) Christmas crackers - no pink plastic motorbikes / jewellry / hilarious jokes / paper hats are involved in Brazilian festivities, unfortunately. I'm sure Chinese exporters are working on it, though.
Now playing: Wham! - Last Christmas