In Buenos Aires the weather is warm in December, so malls have fake snow and many hang paper cutouts of snowflakes from the ceilings. Colorful lights and Santa Clause figurines are everywhere, and everyone is cheerful.
The big day is full of hustle and bustle. We start the day by drinking mate, a tea made with llerba leaves and other herbs, for breakfast. It’s an essential part of Argentine culture. Even prisoners are allowed to drink it.
The house is usually extra hot as the ovens blaze in the summer heat to finish cooking the meals.
We set a long, rectangular table for the adults. Kids usually eat at a round table not too far from parental supervision. We drink wine just like the adults, but we don’t get a whole glass. Instead, we are served just a little bit and fill the rest of the cup with Coca Cola.
Kids are usually served first or at the same time as the men. Women are served next. No one is allowed to touch their plate until everyone is at the table with a full plate of food. When the first bite is swallowed we usually hear applause and someone shouting, “un aplauso para la consinera,” which means “an applause for the cook.”
At midnight, we make a toast for the family. Afterwards, the kids go outside and play with sparklers, while we wait for the fireworks. The sizzle and smell of the sparklers give me butterflies in my stomach. As we wave the sparklers in the air you could hear the boom-badoom-boom-boom of the fireworks cracking in the summer air. When the last firework is popped and smoke filled the night sky, it is time for what we have waited for all night — Santa Claus’ arrival.
Back inside we find presents like a doll, a bicycle, teddy bear, clothes and candy. Girls typically get a kitchen appliance or a little mate kit, which consists of a teakettle and a mate cup. The mate cup is usually made from a dried up gourd. It comes with a steel straw that has small filter at the bottom so you don’t consume the llerba leaves and herbs as you drink. Boys often get a soccer ball or marbles.
Unlike kids in the U.S., Argentine children don’t get all their presents on Christmas. That’s because we celebrate a second holiday on January 6 called Los Reyes Magos, or The Three Kings. Los Reyes Magos is celebrated in honor of Jesus Christ. It’s the remembrance of Christ’s birth, the Epiphany, a Roman Catholic tradition.
The day before Los Reyes Magos, we put out hay and water for The Three Kings’ camels to drink, just like kids put out cookies and milk for Santa. While my cousins and I slept, my Nona would cut shapes of camel hoof prints out of cork. She would dip the shaped cork into crushed charcoal and stamp hoof prints on the floor. She would also dump water from the camels’ bowls and spread the hay everywhere. The next morning, I was so excited to see that the camels eaten and drank what we left them.
Like most Argentine kids, I love both holidays and I’m happy to have two of them to celebrate.
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