The Elephant in the Manger

Well, … the long-awaited, dreaded, expected Christmas has come and it’s almost gone; already getting ready for 2015. This late afternoon while I’m listening to Christmas carols on Ireland’s RTE1 http://www.rte.ie/radio1 I’m taking a quick balance of this year’s Christmas in Brazil for our families of course. Oh by the way, this morning we listened to a great African Christmas song on RTE1 – you gotta check it out on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pY_7RBn00Es

Well, Christmas eve started off even better than I expected – this year, my brother and sister-in-law decided to join her family in her sister’s home – so there were just the 4 of us – silence and opportunity to talk despite the continuous mumble of the TV (always on – see previous blog on Christmas). The latest news was that a burglar or burglars had climbed up their upstairs front window last Sunday afternoon – while everybody was gathered downstairs, my brother lives in a 2-story house. But thank God neither the burglars came downstairs nor the family went upstairs while they were stealing with their filthy hairy hands any fake or real jewellery, watches, notebook and anything else they thought of value.  Unfortunately their traditionally quiet neighborhood in São Paulo’s Ipiranga area has become a magnet to low-burning crime. IMG_1142

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But I had said that Christmas is all about family in Brazil – I should correct myself – Christmas in Brazil is all about FOOD. My sister-in-law had prepared a wonderful Christmas dinner for us. Lovely!

After dinner, we left at around 9.30pm – as scheduled – to go to my mother-in-law’s where my wife’s family would get together around the Elephant in the manger. Yes, let elephant-in-the-room-audialtempartemme explain: one of her brothers, Paul*, has quite often been cheating on Marilou*, his wife – she knows about it, but is always willing to forgive him. Detail, Paul* has never held a steady job so Marilou* has always been their family’s breadwinner.

This time, Paul has said that he has finally found a woman who understands him and he has decided to leave Marilou. Of course, he has not said it outloud, but whispered the idea to one of his sisters. However, Paul* does not have a place to stay IF and WHEN he leaves home, his dad has already told him he can’t check in at his home. So… last night, did I mention it was Christmas eve? – we got to my mother-in-law’s and Marilou* was there with their son, Tiny Mark*. Where was Paul? “Making company to his divorced dad who was alone” – actually, spending time with his new witch with a capital B. And the elephant continued sitting there right in front of the TV. Of course, Brazilians love their soap opera so Marilou* had to push the elephant a little aside so she could watch the latest episode of the 9pm soap. Presents were exchanged and we left at midnight.

Today we went back for lunch – at my mother-in-law’s – who was there among the family? Paul* – cooking a roastbeef and turkey, Marilou* – sitting with a little drool in the corner of her mouth and Tiny Mark – as a “happy family” – and the elephant? As the main decoration on the table, naturally.

Marilou* had prepared a delicious chocolate and coconut pudding for dessert – but my wife and I decided to pass – even though it looked delicious. But one never knows what one can get out of food prepared in anger, tears, grief, desperation, and a tad of madness.

Anyways, we left at 4pm and returned to our peaceful corner.

Hope you had a great holiday. And ready for the New Year’s celebrations?

Cheers,

Mo

*All names have been changed to protect the elephant in the manger

Christmas in Brazil

Saundz.com asked me to describe Christmas in Brazil. Where can I start? Brazil is such a vast and diverse country – clichés apart, we could say that different regions celebrate Christmas in their own way. What I can say is that Christmas in Brazil has always been brazil_map_christmas_tree_ornaments-rf43a682d77f340e2a9e1544683de46ab_x7s2y_8byvr_512the family holiday of the year. In the Brazilian North and Northeast regions I’m aware that some centuries-old traditions, with singers and religious processions looking for the baby Jesus on the streets of the village, etc. In Gramado, southern Brazil, there is a very beautiful Christmas production by the lake with classical soloists and choir.

But here in São Paulo, at least in our family everything is very simple.

Traditionally families get together on Christmas eve, those who are religious go to church for the midnight mass and, then eat supper with lots of turkey, couscous (a Brazilian interpretation can be ceiafound here – http://authenticbraziliancuisine.blogspot.com.br/2011/07/cuscuz-brazilian-interpretations-of.html), rice with vegetables or raisins, salpicão de frango (cold chicken salad – for a quick recipe see http://www.food.com/recipe/salpic-o-de-frango-brazilian-cold-chicken-salad-456992 ). My mother used to love to prepare ONLY for Christmas and New Year’s – what we called pickles  (pronounced

picpicleskreys),and consisting of boiled hot dogs, cucumber, carrots, turnips and some cauliflower buds – they’re tough to stick with a toothpick.

For dessert we can have coconut and pineapple cake, prune pudding, condensed milk pudding, and other attractions that won’t disappoint any sweet tooth.manjar-coco-calda-ameixa

Since I don’t drink any alcohol, my Christmas consists of fruit juice – watermelon and ginger is my latest favorite. Ok, ok, I confess: I might go crazy and have 2 glasses of Coke. melancia

Traditionally, my wife and I go first to my brother’s home where we usually plan to get there around sunset (around 7:30pm). A secret Santa would be ideal, but considering that we see each other twice in a good year, we’d better buy  a little something for everyone – my nephew and niece are grownups now but not very talkative but that’s ok. Sometimes if I try really hard I manage to hear my nephew and niece mumble something that can be construed as “Merry Christmas” or “Hare Krishna” – whatever might suit their mood. We sit down to eat and by 9.30pm we’re leaving to go to my mother-in-law’s home in another part of town, where there will be the grandchildren… now great-grandchildren – who will bring some innocence and joy to the evening. Take the children away, nothing stays. By the way, One thing I can’t understand – at my brother’s and mother-in-law’s the TV is always on during that time – generating some background noise and light – as if they were saying, I’m not that interested in what you’ve got to tell me so let’s watch Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in silence. Weird!

Around midnight or even before that (if I’m lucky), we wish them all merry Christmas and head home. This year it will be a little different because we have adopted Luther, a black cat, and he will most definitely be waiting for us to return home.

This year, my wife was able to see daddy again after 5 years they’ d grown apart because of alcohol (his not hers) and terrible character (again, his not hers). But God can soften our hearts and this year after his diagnosis of throat cancer, my wife was able to approach her dad again. Believe it or not, that man is no cat but he’s got at least 9 lives. After surviving prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and throat cancer – he’s survived this challenge again and as a present from her heart my Sweetheart took daddy to Rio de Janeiro by plane – first time he visited that city and got on an airplane. The amazing power that God’s love allows us to forgive blows my mind. (Update – unfortunately my wife’s dad, Paulo, passed away on Mother’s Day 2015, talk about irony, may his ashes rest in peace).

So it’s not a bad Christmas at all.

Looking forward to Christmas. (Who am I kidding?)

Ho ho ho,

Mo