It wouldn’t be Christmas without me and the Sweetie chasing down summer, right? This year, Argentina and Brazil—and the stunning Iguazú or Iguaçu Falls, depending on which side of the border you happen to find your feet. (For more photos, click on the name of the country.)
We had to look hard to find Christmas, boy. In Catholic countries yet. Buenos Aires, for example, had slim, slim festive pickings. There was an almost total absence of Christmas decorations—lights even—along showpiece boulevards or stores or parks. So, true, we did find Father Christmas in a mall, and a lone extravagant Christmas tree. But we saw not a single Santa line. Heard not one note of Christmas music. Saw not one red Salvation Army kettle in all the time we were in Argentina.
Christmas did pop up momentarily in Rio de Janeiro, though. Coca Cola sponsored an hour’s worth of a spectacular Feliz Natal Parade, which obliged that there was a lead pack of Coke trucks outlined in white lights. Like this:Coke in Lights
It’s Copacabana, and Cariocas have been to samba school for their Carnival—they’ve had years of practice putting on a scene. This time mostly for kids? Hundreds of folks paraded as characters from cartoons and children’s books dancing PG-sedately and synchronized to music from “My Fair Lady.”
It rained like the dickens, and the parade started three hours later than advertised. Nobody grumbled. Except for, well, maybe a few North American tourists. Wussies, we watched high and dry from the tenth floor.
So, all right, to be fair, we also did glimpse Christmas at the Crystal Palace in rural Petropolis, a two-hour, gorgeous drive from Rio through mountains and valleys and lush forest vegetation. Again, no long lines for Santa. Only a handful of kids smiling for a parent’s camera, the kids getting one piece of candy from Papai Noel and a chance to deposit their little lists in a box. Pretty cool, pretty low-key.
Still. Here I am again, looking for the Christmas of my fantasies. Of course, it ain’t anywhere. It’s never going to be anywhere.
And, yet, something absolutely special happened. We got to spend some time with my eldest brother and his family in South Beach, FL, and got a glimpse of how incredible it would be if we knew them better. And we surely did nyam up the groan of great Jamaican food they laid out for us. First taste of ackee, mashed green bananas, bammie—any Jamaican food for that matter—for Mr. Sweetie. Oink. Oink. Snort!