After nearly two years in Buenos Aires, I finally celebrated my first Christmas here. In the past, I had always made it back “home” for the holidays, but as this is now home, we celebrated here and I found that even after two years, I was still able to see differences between Argentine celebrations and those from the States that I had grown up with.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception
The Christmas season really kicks off on December 8 with the “Inmaculada Concepción de María.” This is a national holiday and everyone has the day off of work. It is also the day that all the Christmas trees and decorations go up.
We were a bit late this year, so we headed off to buy our Christmas tree on December 10 and found that procrastination pays – all trees and decorations were already 50% off! This is because so many people see December 8 as the day to put up the tree that anything after this date is already too late. These discounts would never happen in the States until after Christmas.
As far as I could tell, real Christmas trees do not exist in Buenos Aires. Unlike NYC where real trees are trucked in from Canada and can be found on every street corner in December, our only option here was fake trees imported from China. We ended up with a fairly nice one that was originally $500 pesos (now 50% off), but I still prefer the smell and experience of a real tree.
Noche de Shopping
December 23 is the official “Night of Shopping.” On this night, most of the malls stay open until 5am to make sure everyone has a chance to buy all their presents. Each mall has different promotions as well as fireworks and live bands playing at midnight.
This is something that should definitely catch on in the States as it was a lot of fun. We went to the new Tortugas Open Mall, which is the largest mall in South America, and when we got there at around 5:30pm the mall was pretty much dead. By 10:30pm, you could barely move! Everyone was out doing their last minute shopping. And with the Club La Nacion card, we were able to get 25% off at a lot of the stores, once again proving that procrastination pays.
Christmas Week Heat Wave
Ok, I’m from the mid-West and East coast and used to experiencing white Christmases. In Buenos Aires, we were experiencing a 90+ degree heat wave for all of Christmas week, which meant running from air conditioning to air conditioning whenever possible. On Christmas day, we hit a record 96 degrees. This was the first Christmas I actually spent in a bathing suit and at the pool. It was an interesting change, but I have to admit that I missed the snow a bit.
Christmas Eve Dinner and Fireworks
Christmas Eve is the main night of celebration in Argentina. Families gather for dinner and at midnight light fireworks and then open gifts. The sky in Argentina becomes a multi-colored explosion of light as everyone lights their fireworks. It’s a bit amazing that there are no regulations on lighting fireworks in a major city with tightly packed buildings, but this is Argentina after all. We opted to wait until Christmas day to open our presents and stick with the more American traditions.
Three Kings Day
I know this post is a bit late for Christmas, but luckily we still have another night for gifts! Three Kings Day is January 6 and celebrates the three wise men bringing their gifts. To celebrate, children put their shoes outside their doors on the night of January 5, along with hay for the camels. When they wake in the morning, the hay is replaced by a gift. I can’t wait to see what I get on my first Three Kings Day!
This day is also the day to take down all the Christmas trees and decorations, marking the end of the holiday season and the official beginning of summer vacations.