When you think about Christmas you always have an image in mind: snowy landscapes, frosty windows, a fireplace with colorful stockings full of candy hanging, and a fat lovely Santa tenderly placing presents under the most beautiful Christmas tree ever.
I used to enjoy that kind of Christmas—though it was never quite in such a snowy setting, but still cold enough to enjoy a hot rum punch and chat for hours with my happy family around a crowded dining table.
And then I moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, so far away that it almost falls off the map! This beautiful and complex country is in the Southern Hemisphere, so our seasons are reversed. Christmas occurs in the early days of our summer, and believe me, it’s a challenge to deck the halls in 108° weather and still want to sing Christmas carols.
So for any of you living through a balmy Christmas, from Aruba to Australia to Argentina, here’s a guide to help you celebrate Christmas even if the weather tells you it’s July. Just do it like we Argentines do—“tango style!”
HOT WEATHER AND CHRISTMAS DINNER
People in Argentina—and in many other countries in the Southern Hemisphere—love to reunite with their family and friends for Christmas. But if you’re lucky enough to be invited to the festivities, be sure to grab a beach towel, a good sun screen and some mosquito repellent. It will be very hot and sunny and you will be able to enjoy outdoor activities and probably a swimming pool at your hosts’ home. Dinner is huge, and it’s likely you may spend Christmas Eve with your hosts and then be invited back for lunch—another huge meal—on Christmas Day.
Read Related: Don’t Cry for Me, Buenos Aires
A SUMMER MENU…NOT!
One might logically imagine that a Christmas meal in the summertime means a light menu of with plenty of regional fruits, salads, and other cold dishes, given the heat and humidity. But think again—even when the thermometer shouts out: Eat light! the Christmas menu down here is as terrifyingly fattening as those in colder climates.
The main course will be the typical asado with all kind of beef cuts, plus salami and sausages. Some people prefer a more traditional Christmas specialty like turkey, piglet or chicken—it may be filled with some nuts or almond cream. This dish can be accompanied by some typical Argentine fresh salads like Waldorf or potato salad.
You might also sample Vitel Thone, a cold dish of French origin consisting of slices of tender meat in a tuna cream sauce. No Argentine Christmas dinner would lack an Italian pionono: A roll of red pepper, cheese, cocktail sauce, palmettos and other ingredients.
All that hot and heavy food is bound to make you thirsty. Argentines love to have excellent wines with their dinner, usually red wine for gentlemen (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot or Syrah) and white wine for ladies (Torrontes or any light sparkling wine). After dinner and when midnight bells resound all along the country, you will toast with champagne or cider.
That will be time for the sweets table and desserts. Loosen your belt and make room for nougat, candies and dried fruits, as part of the tradition that was brought by Spanish immigrants. There is nothing more typical to end these holiday meals than the Panettone, or sweet bread as it is called in Argentina. It is a loaf with raisins, glazed fruits and nuts—a traditional Italian treat.
RESTRAINT & ANTACIDS
Experience has taught me that these heavy Christmas meals are too much on a very hot day or night, so be careful and thoughtful about what you are eating and drinking. Try a little of this and a little of that, and take longish breaks between courses.
North or south, it’s the same Christmas feeling when it comes to spending time with your loved ones. But, if you are going to spend next Christmas in Buenos Aires, don’t forget your sunscreen, bug repellant, beach towel, batteries for your camera…and some antacid pills!