Traditionally, we put up the Christmas tree on December 8th, the Day of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, and put it away on January 6th until the next December.
Women should wear pink undies for good luck on Christmas Eve. It has to be a present from someone, not bought. You never see so much pink underwear in the shop windows the rest of the year!
Luckily I’m not superstitious. If I were, I’d have had many nervous breakdowns over the years the day after Christmas when I realised I’d been wearing any colour but pink!
We don’t use Christmas stockings to store the presents. We put them under the tree and open them at the stroke of midnight. It’s great fun, especially if there are children in the house.
This whole operation requires some logistics: someone is in charge of distracting the children while somebody else hastily brings the presents out of their hiding place. Then somebody cries “Look! Santa was here while you were outside!” while pointing at the presents. And everyone descends on the presents like Biblical locusts.
I wasn’t good at writing Santa a letter with my wish list. But I remember one year, I must have been four or five years old, when I got a set of plastic spades and buckets to play in the sand. I was gobsmacked. “WOW! How did Santa know we’re going to the beach???” I thought.
The main event takes place on Christmas Eve, when families get together and eat and drink themselves silly. At 12 o’clock we toast, we hug and kiss and wish merry Christmas to every single person in the room – yes, one by one. Open the presents, drink some more and eat nuts, raisins, turrón (a kind of nougat), pan dulce (a distant cousin of the Italian panettone) and go outside to see the fireworks.
Fireworks and firecrackers are legal in Argentina. You’re responsible for your own safety. If you’re an idiot an hurt yourself or others, you deal with the consequences (usually, a trip to the casualty room).
On Christmas Eve and New year’s Day, the sky is lit with fireworks. It’s beautiful -if noisy.
There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.