In Argentina, and I’m sure many other places, Christmas festivities are in full swing on Christmas Eve. It’s hot in Buenos Aires, but not as hot as last year. Christmas is so different here and it’s not just the weather. This is my third Christmas south of the Equator and I’m finally settling into the holiday season as the Argentines do it.
All of the presents are given by Santa. Apparently, he magically leaves gifts at the stroke of midnight when Christmas Eve officially becomes Christmas Day. Then all of the gifts are opened immediately. Every single gift has to be from Santa. The tie you bought your grandpa? From Santa. The spa package you bought for your mom? From Santa. Everyone has to sign the tags that way.
It’s common for gifts to be “wrapped” in the bag from the store. When you buy something, you tell the cashier that it is a gift (un regalo). The cashier will then take the price sticker off, print a gift receipt, staple the receipt to the bag, tape it shut and slap a bow on it. Fancy. I am not a big fan of that, so this year I bought wrapping paper and wrapped all the gifts I bought. That felt Christmassy, but not much else has this holiday season. I’m trying hard to not feel homesick, but it creeps in without notice. Suddenly my gut will cramp up and my heart will ache.
Tonight, I am at church. The church I’m in is a Catholic one. When people walk in the doors, most of them do one of two things: make the sign of the cross on themselves or bend down on one knee. A lot of people are on the move while doing the latter, which makes it look like they’re doing a half-hearted lunge or poorly executing a yoga move. Speaking of exercise, we’re doing a lot of standing to sitting to standing in here. Why do we have to stand so much? I’m not standing, my knee is sore because I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately and not in good shoes. My feet are really sore from yesterday. I did all the Christmas shopping, went to two malls, took a subway, took a bus, two car rides, and I had a therapy appointment. It was an overwhelming and tiring day to say the least.
I do not like all this standing in church. I’m not standing today. My knee is sore. My feet are sore. I have been doing too much walking with shoes that don’t do my body any favors.
The priest is babbling on and on and I can’t understand what he is saying because he is using a microphone and whenever he raises his voice the speakers belt out a harsh trill. He has the microphone right up to his lips, making it impossible for me to hear him clearly. I wonder why he became a priest. There is a young man sitting up on the…er…stage? He is dressed in casual clothing
A lot of the songs being sung tonight are the same tune as the English version of classic Christmas carols. I don’t know the words in Spanish, but I can sing along in English.
I confess, I dislike going to church. I like churches, but only when they’re empty. When quiet whispers are the loudest voices, then I don’t mind. The moments of silence, punctuated by the quiet shuffling of a visitor or the ping of a coin being donated to the religious institution. Personal, tranquil, peaceful moments are where I find truth.
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