One of the things I resent the most about the US cultural hegemony is having spent so many Christmas as a child wishing and hoping for snow. I was really under the believe that a perfect Christmas was not complete without snow. All the images coming at me told me that (Coca Cola ads and Home Alone anyone?).
I would sit by the window of my bedroom, looking at the clear night sky of the perfect Portuguese Winter, not waiting for some kind of flying vehicle pulled by Nordic horse-like animals to come by (really, who believed that?!), no. I would sit there waiting for snow to start falling.
Had I lived a couple of hundred kilometres north/north-east of the country, and I would probably not be writing this post. But, at the magnificent coordinates of 39º 12′ 0” N/8º 37′ 0” W snow comes once in a lifetime. Or, as we say in Portuguese, whenever the King has his birthday (we don’t have a King, btw).
I remember one particular Christmas that I was so desperately wishing for snow that I glued little cotton balls on my window. Yes, that sad…
I now realize that there were other ways in which the great American Christmas created by some advertising genius à la Don Draper, made its way into my Portuguese imaginarium.
One of them was through music. Somehow, without ever setting foot in the US, I grew up exposed to all the Great American Christmas tunes. Well done Don Drapers of this World, well done.
As I grew older I realized snow would never come. But my obsession with recreating the “perfect” Christmas (à la US) was still there. I used the tunes instead! Also, good thing the Portuguese Winter is still cold enough to light the fireplace! Imagine my desperation if, on top of not having snow, I had been unable to light the fire, wear cosy knits and have roasted chestnuts!
As I approach my 30th birthday, I no longer feel as imprisoned by the Great American Christmas. As years went by, I began to free myself of that manipulation and started to appreciate what really made that day special: spending time with loved ones and sharing a beautiful meal.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still pretty obsessed with snow. The first time it snowed in my home town in my lifetime I wasn’t there. I had stayed in Lisbon that weekend to study or some sh*t like that.
My mum and aunt called all excited to share the awesome news and my reaction was hysterical. They thought it was good news but for me it was torture (yes, I started to cry)! It doesn’t snow for over 2 decades and the day it does I am not there to see it?! WTF?!
Fortunately, later that day it arrived in Lisbon. It was just little frozen rain drops but that was enough to make my sister and me go crazy about it (I was 22)!
The next time I saw snow fall was a couple of years later in Vienna. It was the end of the Winter so it wasn’t cold enough for it to accumulate, but sure was enough of a snow fall to make me cry with joy!
In Brighton is where I really got to experience proper snow fall and white days. This was after my 26th birthday…
I know I was a pretty grown up person to be making snow angels! But I really didn’t care! Childhood dreams are to be lived whenever the opportunity comes, even if you’re not a child anymore!
Anyway, sorry for the detour. Where was I? Oh right, sharing time with loved ones and a beautiful meal.
Maybe it’s because I have been away from my country but in recent years I really wanted to get back what gave identity to my culture. I guess that’s where my backlash against the Great American Christmas comes from.
At the same time, I really feel that it is such a shame that some of my childhood memories are so sad because someone somewhere thought it was a good idea to sell the idea of a White Christmas!
Beware, folks with children! What you expose your kids to does have consequences!
Nevertheless, I also realize that the essence of my culture is probably not very different from other cultures around the world. In fact, it’s a pretty primitive blueprint: surround yourself with those you love and share with them great moments. And the best way to do that? Over a beautiful meal you all came together to create, of course! The specificities of that meal is what makes each culture different but those are just details.
Now I am in a place where it is Summer over Christmas. It will NEVER snow here in this time of the year and I will not be playing American Christmas tunes (even if they pop up in my head). I will not be wishing for a cold day so I can light up the fire inside. I will not be wanting to wear knits and fuzzy boots. I will not be hoping for a hot beverage by the fire.
I will be appreciating the beautiful Summer time. I will be making a delicious meal for my Southern family; I will be missing my Northern family; I will be making delicious cocktails with my husband, put on a beautiful Summer dress and wear sandals.
I will really enjoy the moment. And my perfect Christmas? I now realize that it is the essence that makes me happy, not the details. Besides, if there’s something I learned in my 20s was that any moment can be perfect if only we learn to let go and enjoy!