This year marks my third Christmas spent abroad. It’s also my third different country.
The Chinese leave up paper Santa Claus decorations year-round, therefore mitigating the sentimentality during the proper holiday season. It’s China, though, so of course purchasing cheap (in all senses of the word) decor was easy, and therefore I did enjoy a decorous apartment. (No pictures from those China days are available; part of the realities of my four years abroad.) The city does decorate, usually about a week before the 25th. And the Chinese have about as much knowledge of the meaning of Christmas as Westerners do of Mid-Autumn Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day.
India has a bogglingly wide variety of religions that celebrate some major holiday between November and December. My arrival in early November 2010 coincided well with their Diwali. Theirs are full of glittering lights and a palpable sense of joy, and the practice of giving gifts is common. There were even a few strands of garland and some Christian crosses illuminated in the windows of apartments I passed when walking from the train station to my apartment.
India and Peru are both hot during this time of year. And Peru, being in the Southern Hemisphere of course, it’s the summer, made especially poignant by the fact that everywhere I go are dull desert landscapes.
Last year in the US surely anyone around me could have seen my holiday spirit. It was my first Christmas and birthday in my own country in three years. The star on the scene was our abundance of snow, decorating what my dad called a Charlie Brown tree, watching White Christmas on cable, and being surrounded by American vegetarian food.
This year in Peru is my first in a predominantly Catholic country. Naturally, the Christmas trees, the panetón (which Italian Americans commonly eat and which is like a dry fruitcake), and even the office parties remind me of home– even if the latter do take place in Spanish.
Some things that are making this year special include my two weeks off from the university. First up was Punta Sal for four days (read more about that next month). There’s nothing like the beach to squash an expat’s stresses. Starting tonight Christmas will be spent with friends in Lima, where the cafés, art galleries, and architecture walks beckon.
Since I’m still counting the days until I return to the US in February (59 as of today), it’s rather pointless to wax sentimental about Christmas. May my readers delight in a blessed holiday and a helluva lotta love and luck in the new year.