MY FIRST CHRISTMAS IN BRAZIL, A FRENCH EXPAT’S STORY

I'm curious to see what my first Christmas in Brazil will be like. For the European that I am, "a sunny Christmas" is almost an oxymoron.

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christmas in brazil minas gerais

This year I’ll be celebrating my first true Christmas in Brazil, and everything that comes with it. By true, I mean as a family, which in Brazil usually means a lot – a lot – of people.

I’m curious to see what this Christmas will be like. Because, for the European that I am, “a sunny Christmas” is almost an oxymoron.

Goodbye cold weather, hello heat!

Indeed, when you’re European, you’re used to the icy Christmas of Europe – the cold, the wind, the snow. But in Brazil, it’s exactly the opposite. Remember that Brazil is located in the Southern Hemisphere, so the month of December – like with Australia for example – is in the middle of summer.

For those who hate the cold, Christmas in Brazil is obviously great. And spending New Year’s with my feet in the waters of Samba Country is sounding pretty good.

Christmas in Minas

For those who have never been to Brazil’s state of Minas Gerais, I highly recommend it. A two hour drive from São Paulo, you’ll encounter nature in all its glory. The landscapes are green, and the region is famous for its cheese and milk. At certain moments, you’d even think you were in Normandy or Switzerland. It’s striking.

Christmas in Brazil means family (of Brazilian dimensions)

You might say, “of course, it’s the same as anywhere else.” Except here we’re talking about the Brazilian family. If we do the math, my husband’s grandmother had 9 children. And each of her children had 2 to 3 more children. We add that, of course, to the many friends of the family who will also come with their kids.

Then there’s the family pets, and the fact that in Brazil people speak loudly. Now imagine fitting all of that – we’re talking at least forty people – into about 100 square meters, almost half of which is just the kitchen.

At Christmas, everyone gets their hands dirty

Christmas day is full of preparations. When you’ve got a big family, there’s obviously a lot of planning and high costs. But in Brazil, everyone pitches in. We decided that all the family members would cook something: everyone prepares one dish, one dessert, and brings a drink to wash it all down.

If every person does that, just imagine our feast! I’m definitely curious to see what the kitchen will be like the day of.

Goodbye foie-gras, hello bacalhau

Here we forget the champagne and instead pop open some cider or beer. For the food, we don’t speak of turkey, salmon, or even foie-gras or mulled wine. Instead, we replace all of that with fresh, cool dishes. Hold on there, I said fresh, not light! (Is there anything “light” in Brazilian cuisine, really?)

So we have the traditional bacalhau, or codfish, chicken, shrimp soup, and let’s no forget the Italian panettone for dessert. That’s the advantage of a multicultural country – we get a blend of Portuguese, Italian, and African influences in the cuisine!

After dinner, Secret Santa

An absolutely great idea and the perfect solution to gift-giving when you have both a huge family and a limited budget: the Secret Santa. In Brazil, amigo secreto is a popular tradition. So popular that apps have been created to designate your amigo secreto, otherwise known as the family member who you’ll be offering a gift. But watch out – it’s a secret. There’s no revealing your gift before the 25th.

The budget and the theme are decided from the beginning. Each person makes their preferences known so you can avoid  getting any gifts that someone won’t like.

In my family, we’ve decided on a budget between 50 to 100 BRL and a gift theme related to culture. Black Friday provides the perfect opportunity to finalize one’s purchases. On the 25th, we have to guess who our Secret Santa is. There are many ways of going about this: a song, a poem, a skit, anything creative that is fun and personal. I don’t worry about the fun aspect of things when I look at the lively family I’ve got. And a little bit of alcohol keeps everything pretty entertaining.

What about you? Do you have any experiences of your Brazilian Christmas to share with us?