A fellow expat was waiting breathlessly for a telephone call from the States yesterday that would make or break her Christmas: her project headquarters in
Even after three years of winterless holidays, the reality of Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere continues to come to me in sporadic bursts: a hotel restaurant overflowing with Christmas garlands, a 5 foot fake Christmas tree coated in psychedelic flashing lights, a coated storefront proclaiming a “Joyeux Noël” to all in fake snow. I can still easily forget to mark the Advent season if I don’t have the ubiquitous external clues of snow, cold and obsessive consumerism. The seasonal changes here – intermittent hot sun and cool clouds with gentle rain showers and the occasional thunder-banger and the persistent humidity – have no association with fat Santa Clauses in red fur suits, antlered reindeer, tinseled pine trees, or O Holy Night for me.
And yet, somehow, I don’t feel lost without Christmas in my life – or at least without Christmas-as-I-knew-it. It’s not even a matter of the “Malagasy do it better, simpler, appreciate the holiday more or expect less;” the commercialism may not be as extreme here simply because people can’t afford it, but it’s still there. Rather, since I’m not given the stimuli I am so programmed to respond to, I feel free of the baggage of the Christmas season and free to live it instead.
Now I truly understand the beauty of that Corona beer commercial with the whistled “O Christmas Tree” followed by the lighting of the Christmas palm. And I’m not sure I miss the real snow.
P.S. It probably won’t matter if the snowstorm did close the bank. A thunderstorm knocked out our phonelines three weeks ago and most of our banks haven’t been able to give out money since.