Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Christmas In Rio

Well, since I wrote about my anticipation of Christmas in Rio not being what I am used to, I should write about how I experienced it now that it happened. First, my comments were not meant to denegrate other people's cross cultural expressions of the Christmas holiday. Just to relate my own reactions to perceived differences. And this post is intended to react to those after the fact.

Christmas with Bianca's family was very different than I am used to. I enjoyed it because of the relationships. We had a relaxing day at home. Watching some movies, read emails, talked to her family, ate, etc. But I will say the traditions I have treasured most of my life as the epitomy of Christmas were pretty much absent. Not judging their expression as wrong, mind you, just saying it is not much related to my own. That is as far as the family thing goes. But it was still delightful in its own way because I was with the one I love.

As for the community, of course, Christmas feels different when it is 107 outside and it did not cool down until this week. It was in the 100s all last week and the week before. So, it did not bring images of snow, etc. to mind. But there are lots of Christmas images around from decorations at shopping malls, stores, and other businesses to those in homes. Bianca's family does not have a Christmas tree, but they have various Christmas items around. They don't do the exchange of presents my family so enjoyed, but we did give presents. It just wasn't set aside for a particular time, with bows and wrapping, etc. the way I am used to. But the shopping malls, the sales, the deocrations all struck a familiar chord. Some of the Christmas displays at the malls must have cost a lot of money and taken lots of time to put together.

There is also Christmas music on the radio and playing at various places. This, of course, always makes one nostalgic (at least me). And it is fun to hear Brazilians, many of whom speak little English, sing the words in English, memorized from just such moments repeated time and again.
We even saw the world's largest Christmas tree, floating in the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. It changed colors regularly and was quite a site, and they also had lasers and water dancing (a combination of fountains, jets, etc.) all against an amazing background as you see in the picture above. Then we sat and ate crepes and pastels and talked. It was indeed special and moving. I guess I got new sentimental memories after all.

So Christmas in Rio was not all strange and unfamiliar. It was just different, and overall, that is not always a bad thing. Most of us, if we are honest, will admit to hating change. And we will also admit to struggling with it when it cannot be avoided. One of the reasons I love cross cultural travel is that I get the opportunity to deal with change and am forced to deal with it. I have to dig deeper inside myself, look at things with more introspection and intensity, and to grow in our expectations of and understanding of the world. Christmas in Rio has helped me with that, and I think that's a blessing.

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