Feliz Natal (Merry Christmas)

Brazilians are like little children who can`t wait for their birthday to start and wake up their parrents in the midle of the night to receive their presents. They start celebrating Christmas at the earliest opportunity, the stroke of midnight of the 24th. The champagne is opened, and you can finally attack the food that has been lined up in the corner of the room all night long. It`s buffet style. There is turkey, but the sidedishes are more Brazilian, bolinhas de bacalhau (snacks made of dried codfish) farofa (fried manioc flour) rice and various mayonaise based sallads.

Christmas is also the time to give presents to your loved ones, although no present were exchanged at the party where I was. The shops are very crowded in the weep preceeding Christmas and this year they stayed open the whole night the day before Christmas. It was an eperiment, but it will probably be repeated. One the most popular presents are mobile phones, although they are out if reach as a present for the ordinary Brazilian.

A party in Brazil is impossible without music. Among the young Cariocas Hip Hop is the most popular music style. So there was plenty of that. Brazilian music is deemed boring, the only exception being made for Funk. Maybe even more necesarry is beer. And if a Brazilian talks about beer, he usually uses the word cold in the same sentence. Their obsession with freezing cold beer makes them frown on the English habit of drinking lukewarm beer as the ultimate excentricity.

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European Christmas by necessity is an exclusively inside affair. In Brazil it`s more comfortable to sit on the front porch. So although it also starts out as a family affair, it`s easier to mingle with neighbours and passerbys. When you feel tired you go to bed, the party ends when the last person goes to bed.

The next day it takes a while before everybody is awake again. There is still plenty of food from the night before, so the only thing needed for breakfast is coffee. And then it is time for more beer and music. It was a beautiful day, so you could sit outside the whole day. When you feel hungry you eat some more of the food. You won`t feel thirsty, because there is always a bottle of beer going around.

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It`s all very relaxed, and there is no fixed timetable or obligation to join. At the same time no Brazilian can imagine that you would prefer your own company to the company of friends at any time. Doing so would make you an outsider, and only in European welfare states this is a riskless choice.