A Sunny Christmas in South America
Hannah Qurashi is a fourth year Spanish and Linguistics student at the University of York who spent her third year abroad teaching English in Santiago, Chile. In this article she writes about spending Christmas away from home in South America.
Having spent my whole life living in the UK, Christmas for me is cold winter days, mince pies, and tinsel on the tree. So you can imagine how surreal it was to have a summer Christmas in sunny South America.
This time last year, I was on my year abroad in Chile. I spent the Christmas holidays in Santiago and Christmas day on the beach in Punta del Este, Uruguay. Even though there was no log fire, stocking full of presents or turkey dinner like I was used to, it was still a very special and unique Christmas – one that I will never forget!
The lead-up to Christmas in Santiago was very strange to experience for someone who is used to cold Decembers. As the days got warmer approaching closer to summer, I was taking my coat off instead of putting it on, and swapping a hat and gloves for sunglasses and sun cream. And even though the sun was scorching outside, Chilean shopping centres were still hung snowflakes in shop windows and decorated billboards with images of penguins playing in the snow. Not only that but Santa was still dressed in his usual red and White coat with heavy black sleigh boots (although I did also see some Santas with surfboards wearing sunglasses and board shorts). Also, the Chilean version of Christmas shopping included stocking up on meat and charcoal for the BBQ. Christmas time in Chile seemed to be a unique mix of Northern and Southern hemisphere traditions.
I spent Christmas day with my Uruguayan friend and her family in Punta del Este, a popular place for Uruguayans to spend the holidays. As it 30+ degrees, we spent the majority of the day sunbathing on the beach. In the early evening after watching the sunset, we came back to the house and I Skyped my family. Just like every year, they were all sitting together in the living room watching a movie after having a huge Christmas dinner. After the call, I felt a bit homesick and at that moment I wanted to be back in England spending Christmas with my family. Still feeling a bit down, I went back to join the rest of my friend’s family sitting out in the garden in hammocks. At around 10pm we had a huge BBQ with every kind of meat you can imagine and at midnight we set off fire fireworks from the back garden (a common tradition in South America). As the fireworks lit up the sky and the day came to an end, I felt really lucky to have experienced a true ‘South American style’ Christmas.
To everyone out there who is who is spending Christmas away from home, I know how you feel. Don’t worry if the day doesn’t exactly meet your festive expectations. Every Christmas day in every country will be different. And whether you spend it on the beach, hiking up a mountain, or sat in front of the TV with a mince pie, it will be a Christmas to remember!
If you’re going to be abroad for the festive season, make sure to check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Know Before You Go website for more essential travel advice and information. You can also follow the FCO on Twitter @FCOtravel and on Facebook to find out the latest travel updates!