Buenos Aires is not the most festive place at Christmas. Of course the superfluous requirement of more than one layer of clothing, the excessive daylight and the missing sight of your own breath as you hit the streets shopping with a frozen nose and Nan-knitted scarf, make it all very hard to get into the Christmas mood if you’re used to a wintry December.
But even without the cold dark evenings wrapped up around the fire, it is just not Christmassy here; at least not in the commercial sense.
No giving and receiving of Christmas cards, no advent calendars for the kids as they eagerly count down the days until the twenty-fifth; shopping centres can hardly be called ‘decorated’ and the sound of Christmas songs echoing from brightly lit shops with Rudolf or Santa in the window is pretty much absent.
The city’s Obelisk may well be kind of Christmassied-up with some sort of tree next to it, but the truth is that a walk around the streets of Buenos Aires does not give any hint that Papa Noel is on his way.
Not that there is any real reason for the children to get that excited about the old guy with the beard. The Coca-Cola Christmas complete with a flying Santa shoving himself down chimneys is not really given much credence here, so leaving out a stocking, a mince pie and a carrot for the reindeers is not really the done thing.
In Argentina, like in many other countries, the real Christmas celebration takes place on the night of the twenty-fourth. Youngsters won’t be up at the break of dawn to see what was left under the tree because they will be wide awake at midnight on Christmas Eve exchanging gifts, as fireworks and the popping of cider bottles start off the party. It's all largely reminiscent of New Year's Eve.
In general, it is really a time for families to get together, to reminisce, relax and eat. Typical Christmas food includes asado (barbeque), oven roasted chicken, salads and ice-cream.
But with December temperatures in Buenos Aires usually hitting the mid thirties, the most important Christmas ingredients of all are without doubt a shady corner and an ice-cold beverage. And if you’re lucky, a bob around in the swimming pool.
Merry Christmas, on what is really the morning after the night before.