It’s hard to get into the Christmas spirit here.
There are no Christmas carols playing in the shops. It is impossible to find a live Christmas tree. Decorations are rare and there isn’t much point putting up lights when it gets dark so late.
On top of all that, it’s stinking hot. Who would want hot cocoa or mulled wine in this heat!?
Nonetheless your holiday loving editor persists. I found a cute (fake) tree and decorated it the best I could. I happily jumped at one entrepreneurial baker’s offering of a gingerbread house kit (and dutifully told all the other expat parents)… and I force my poor husband to put on the Christmas tunes here in the house whenever possible.
You see, in this predominantly Catholic country, Christmas still belongs in the realm of the religious. It’s a family affair rather than a commercial endeavor. Didn’t they get the memo??
And it is in this stark contrast that those of us who originally hail from the northern regions of the world become aware that many of our Christmas traditions are, in fact, quite pagan.
This will come as no surprise to you, dear reader. You are no doubt aware of all the Celtic, Germanic, Norsk, and Roman vestiges that can be found in modern day Christmas. From Saturnalia’s ‘best of days’, to mistletoe and Santa Claus, it appears that all over the northern hemisphere, cultures find a way to mark the winter solstice, to bring light in the dead of winter. (Which is probably why it feels so counterintuitive to celebrate in the height of summer.)
This widely spread ritual (one that spans both distance and time) brings us to this week’s mailbag question:
Why do we celebrate holidays in the first place? What is the purpose? And why is it so universal?
As always, you can comment below or write to me directly here.
Io Saturnalia and Merry Christmas to all!