Despite spending so much time in Brazil over the last seven years, we had never actually spent a Christmas here until this year. Brian always flew back to Houston to spend the holiday with me, often after a long flight to Scotland to spend the pre-holiday days with his dad. Christmas has been a time of airports, rushing, limited time and just a few days of cheer.
Last year we spent Christmas in England by ourselves, awaiting the arrival of my daughter who was about to come stay with us for a while.
This year? This year, finally, we had a real Brazilian Christmas!
Brian managed a few days off work and we flew back to Rio das Ostras where we used to live. You know how you don’t realize how much you missed a place until you go back again and see all of your friends, feel the wind on the beach, see the familiar mountains and walk the same familiar roads? Ya, that.
Oh, the beach! How we missed the beach.
The sound of the waves, the acai stands, the kiosks with their hot snacks and ice cold beer overlooking the surfers and children playing in the rock pools. Beach life is just so relaxed. Everyone is smiling, everyone is playing, nobody is worried or stressed or closed off.
The skateboarders are happy to see you, the guys painting the streetlights are laughing with each other, the surfers are whooping it up out on the water. It’s just impossible to be unhappy out there.
Brian has been swamped with work forever but just those few days on the beach, strolling, visiting with friends and being in a familiar place did wonders for him. I haven’t seen that smile in a while.
But you know what’s even better? Christmas with framily. We were lucky enough to stay at our very good friend’s house during our trip. She is more than just a friend, she is part of our family here. She and Brian worked together for five years, she was our one English speaking connection in town when we didn’t know how to do anything here and didn’t speak enough Portuguese to even attempt most of the things we needed to do, and she welcomed us into her family with open arms from the very beginning. We are Tio Brian and Tia Peggy to her children. Oh, man, we missed her girls!
And when you spend Christmas with family, some things are just like home.
The lights on the tree, Santa, presents, the big Christmas Eve meal, the excitement of the children. It was all just a little bit different here in Brazil, but it was also exactly the same and we loved it.
We forgot that it was summer time with no snow on the ground. We didn’t care that there was no corn bread stuffing or sweet potato casserole and A Christmas Story wasn’t playing on the TV. There were no Christmas carolers bundled up in the cold singing at our door or eggnog chilling in the fridge.
What we did have was a very excited three year old who tried – Oh, she tried! – to stay awake for Papai Noel.
You see, Santa comes at midnight here and if the kids are still awake, that’s when they open their gifts. She made it to eleven thirty.
She was tucked into bed and Papai (Rafa) Noel busted out the presents while she slept.
Then the adults exchanged gifts and stayed up talking until a bit past midnight.
And when the morning finally arrived, along with Rosangela’s older daughter, there were more presents to be opened from Santa.
These faces! These are the faces that make it Christmas even when we’re far from home.
Jenny spent the morning wrestling her new guitar away from Rafa, who loves to play. Little Lulu spent the next two days making play-dough cupcakes for us and asking everyone for more money to put in her pretty pink bank.
And as if one Christmas wasn’t enough, we got a second one. A very, very Brazilian second one.
At mid-day we packed up our bathing suits and headed to Fidel’s house. Fidel is Brian’s Brazilian brother, and oh, how we missed him and his family!
We spent the whole day, and half the night at their house with their family and friends, and loved every minute of it. Que saudades! We missed them so much.
And what better way to spend Christmas day than soaking up more sun in the pool with loved ones? That’s one tradition I’d be really happy to adopt.
We swam, we ate, we talked, we played with the little kids, we napped a bit and started it all again.
Brian was waited on by the sexiest of all waitresses (our host, who has the best sense of humor!)
I even got a quick Skype call in with my own kids (who were more than a little bit jealous of the sun and the company) and all was right with the world.
Our first Brazilian Christmas was different than any other we’ve spent before, and we both feel like we’re luckier than we deserve to have friends like these who made it all wonderful. That right there was the best Christmas gift we could receive. Time with people we missed so much, time to reconnect, time to just be with them. At the end of the day, that’s what matters.
We will always miss someone because we live this life the way we do, far from family, far from friends, but we are so lucky to have so many.
Merry Christmas and happy new year to you all. We hope you’re Christmas was even half as good as ours, and that you have people you love to spend it with.