Reflections of Christmas…

Reflections of Christmas…

Just before ten o’clock on the evening of Christmas day and we had just finished watching a film, and it is still warm so I decided I would head for the swimming pool. Actually it is not really fair on swimming pools to CALL it a swimming pool, one stroke takes you from one end to the other, but it is new and the two blue under-water lights look lovely against the Christmas lights on the terrace and barbecue area. It is delightful to sit in the warm water and reflect on Christmas in Brazil, as the twinkling lights reflect on the surface of the water.

I am not yet used to having hot Christmases (perhaps I already said that!?) and it has been hot today – 43 degrees C – but sitting in a warm pool on Christmas Day takes a bit of beating. [The Rio News reported on Thursday, as I was about to actually upload this post that it was the hottest day in Rio since 1915 ]

The moon above was nearly full and a plane was flying over just having taken off from Rio across the bay. They don’t fly over every day so I guess it depends on wind direction and they are pretty high already when they do come over, so it is not a nuisance problem.

We had friends round for lunch today, having been to them for a meal last night. It seems Christmas Eve is the bigger social day here with the main meal late in the evening and then Christmas Day lunch is when you eat up the leftovers with a few beers, much less formal. Actually for me it was a bit TOO late, I had a job to stay awake! I understood the ‘do’ started about 8 o’clock but Brazilian time always translates into approximately an hour later, if one is lucky! In fact it was after 9.30 before we got there, having had a busy day doing some finishing off stuff now the builders are about finished…so I was varnishing doors until nearly 8pm, and Fatima’s contribution to the evening’s cooking still wasn’t finished. We took down a pork joint and some other stuff, too.

We started eating appetisers sometime after 10.30 but the main course was signalled at midnight when we moved inside the house to the dining room. By one o’clock we had moved outside again and the others were starting on the various sweets, but tiredness drained me of my appetite and I was beginning to yearn for my bed…. but… that’s when the first of the visitors arrived!

Other friends of our friends had come to say “Feliz Natal” to much hugging and kissing of cheeks all round… and then at about half past one, our friends said we ought to go round to another neighbour’s house where several other friends were known to be gathered! “We only have to stay a few minutes…!” came the refrain…

I gather it is a bit like “first footing” in Scotland at Hogmanay, when you take an opportunity to call on neighbours and wish them well. So we trooped round a few households away and entered on a party in full swing!! More food was offered (but refused politely on my part!) and drinks pressed on us… I managed to get away with a glass of lovely cold water, rather than get back on the beers but I was seriously drooping by this time and it was well after 2am before we got back home and flopped into bed. Must be my age?!

Today, our friends came to us for a cold collation and cold beers plus a new warm Bacalau (more on that dish another time, perhaps) and then, later on, another set of friends arrived to see us, but they had already eaten. During the conversation I learned that his mother had died a couple of years ago at Christmas time (not sure if it was actually Christmas Day?) and I was reminded that Christmas time often has sad memories for a lot of people, myself included, of course, losing my Mum just two or three days before Xmas when I was 24 and Tricia (my first wife, of 37 years, for any blog-reader who doesn’t know me) late in November, just four years ago.

And talking of sadness at Christmas… we went to the funeral of the wife of a cousin of Fatima’s just over two weeks ago and she was only in her mid-forties, so the children (a girl of 19 and a boy of 16) will be having a sad Christmas this year. Yet more sadness on the news for Christmas day here as well, unfortunately. A family of five died when their car hit a lorry after trying to avoid a loose dog on the road and there was also a story about a different lorry on the same news programme, the driver of which was drunk and he swerved and knocked a small bus off the road killing all eleven people inside… I am not entirely sure whether that was something that had just happened or whether the news was about the lorry driver being drunk and the accident had happened a while ago.

I am sorry this post has taken a sad turn, but I just wanted to spare a thought for those people for whom Christmas is not all glister and twinkle, it is one of the small reflections I always have at this time of year! (The official figure on the news was that 220 people had died on the roads of Brazil during the Christmas Holiday period!! Equivalent of an airplane crash, of course, but much less publicised! The Holiday total for the UK was apparently just seven people – but just as sad for the families involved. )

And I know for sure I am not the only one …. but let me turn to a much happier event of recent days. The daughter of yet another set of friends ….. (I have acquired quite a large circle of friends in Brazil as you may have gathered – but I still miss friends and family at home at this time of year!) got married just a couple of days before Christmas, on Saturday last.

The church where they held the ceremony is in São Francisco (a part of the urban sprawl that is Niteroi, here in Brazil and not San Francisco in the USA, just to clarify!) and the church itself is set on a promontory about 30 metres above the water level in the Bay of Guanabara, of which I have spoken before. Because it was a balmy evening the wedding was held out of doors overlooking the Bay. It was timed for seven o’clock and we only managed to get there by about 7.45 and it was only just about to start (Brazilian time again!!)…. It wasn’t my fault we were late, either, but since Fatima may well read this I shall not apportion blame here!

So the sun was beginning to set behind the hills of Rio across the bay and you could just about make out the iconic Rio figure of Christ on the top of the Corcovado. The city lights were beginning to come on and were reflected beautifully on the waters of the Bay – it was a truly magnificent setting for a wedding. Just before the ceremony started there was a cruise ship setting sail out of Rio, too, lights ablaze, again reflected on the water, but it had disappeared behind a hill before the bride arrived. It was all finished and done by about 8.30 and yet I could see no sign of the guests arriving for the wedding that had been booked at 8pm, so I must assume they were all running on Brazilian time, too!!

We had a delicious meal at one of the most expensive Churrasco (Barbecue-style) restaurants in São Francisco afterwards, so my final reflection of this blog after that and several days of Christmas eating is my reflection in the mirror showing a slightly increased waist size again.

Actually it is NOT my final reflection I just realise, since the TV extravaganza of Christmas Day evening, which I was watching when I started on the blog, starred one of the leading singing personalities of Brazil, Roberto Carlos, a sort of Cliff Richards of Brazil and about the same age. He called the show Roberto Carlos Reflexões, but I had entitled my Blog before I realised this!

Let me wish you all the best of the Season’s Greetings and wish you a Happy New Year too for 2013. And those of you who are coming to see us next year, I wish you a great journey and we will be delighted to see you here when you arrive.  And if you do not yet have such plans we’d be delighted to see you!

PS… I just remembered I was going to mention that, on Christmas Eve as I was eating my breakfast cereal and looking into the garden I saw a humming bird visit one of our flowering bushes. The call the humming bird a Beija-flor here – a “Kiss-flower” in English – delightful!


About Keith Melton - Green Lib Dem

Retired English liberal environmentalist living in Nottinghamshire; spent six years in Brazil. Author of Historical Novel - Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising 1536. Active member of the Green Liberal Democrats - (pressure group in Liberal Democrats) - was Founding Chair of GLD in 1988
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