A couple of months ago I read a post in one of the ex-pat Facebook groups asking fellow ex-pats about how they deal with the combination of Christmas and hot weather. What was interesting was that this person wasn't asking for practical advice, they wanted to know whether the emotional experience of Christmas that they were accustomed to was possible to achieve in dramatically different weather. Having lived in Buenos Aires for 8 years now, I think I can safely say that I don't think I'll ever be able to enter into the festive spirit when it's 38 degrees outside.
So why is it so difficult to get Christmassy in the heat? We first experience culturally important days of the year like Christmas when we are small children. From an early age each year we put up decorations, write our lists for Father Christmas, watch Christmas films and sing carols. For most families these acts are the same every year and they become habits that we hold onto for life.
Most health professionals agree that children react well to routine. The theory is that with such a lot of newness to take in, something familiar onto which the newness can be anchored is extremely comforting. Later in life when we have more experience of the world we can start to let go of these routines. However, there is something the routines of these special days that is difficult to let go of.
Normal childhood routines change dramatically over time. Bedtimes get later, bath-time becomes something that we do on our own and bed-time stories are read silently instead of out loud. However, these once a year routines are easier to sustain over time. I know many families that repeated the same activities for years even after it had all become a bit weird.
So now you're here, in Buenos Aires, it's been over 30 degrees for a week and you're far away from almost everyone you love. What do you do? Ignore it? Act as if nothing is different and throw yourself into getting a six foot (plastic obviously) tree and life size Santa? To be honest I've really never figured out what to do. What I do know is that for ex-pats routines such as celebrations can be extremely important and it can be unsettling if a familiar festivity becomes yet another strange new thing to understand and deal with. I've noticed in the same ex-pat groups that people have been reaching out to one another to make sure no one is alone and to share their familiar festive customs with those who understand them. My advice? Comb those groups for someone, share stories, sing, eat, drink and be merry.