Tours and Activities:
Christmas in Buenos AiresPablo EtcheversPablo Etchevers
Beyond being a religious celebration or an ancient tradition, Christmas is a unique date on which anything may happen.
In our southern hemisphere, December has always been a month in which temperatures are quite high. I recall that an unshakable ritual would be held on such date. My brother and I would get to our Grandma’s house very early on the 24th to get everything ready.
A few hours later, my cousin would join us and the three of us would look through the window as if hypnotized while we waited for Santa Claus to arrive.
There were no large fireplaces, nor moose, nor deer wandering about the garden, but the Christmas tree, which became smaller as we grew up, invited us to prowl around it no sooner the sun had set and the night had fallen.
From that moment on, our sight would only concentrate on the sky. No matter how many times our parents would call us to dinner, it could wait until after midnight. There were more important things to worry about.
We would search in the dark for an old man in red with a huge white beard carrying a large bag filled with cars, dolls, bicycles, balls and toys from unthinkable places.
And it was always the same. Santa Claus would land its sled who knows where and leave the gifts at the foot of the tree, with their corresponding name and surname so that no one would mistake their parcel.
In the house across the street, another family had the tradition to turn off the light when Santa arrived as they thought he was shy. When the lights went on again, the tree would be teeming with presents. Only once did the lady of the house manage to clutch a lock of white beard. That was the closest tactile contact I have ever heard about between a human being and Santa Claus.
The three of us, instead, would always end up the same way. Sitting on the floor, tearing the wrapping paper and the ribbons until we could see what was inside each parcel, but with our eyes fixed on the stars until the following Christmas.
Play the Game
Just like the famous game played in Argentina “Don Pirulero”, when touring around Buenos Aires in Christmas we can find thousands of unimaginable ways to express the same feelings.
Since late November and early December, all the preparations begin to turn the city into a giant Christmas tree, where the shops, their owners, clerks, shop-windows and decorations invite visitors to a magical tour to their line of business.
But if there is one tradition today which has become a porteño value, it is the pride of seeing who has the largest Christmas tree. And the most important shopping malls in towns lodge them in their venues in a sort of winter garden.
Galerías Pacífico, in the area known as city porteña, is ornamented with a huge Christmas tree that may be appreciated from any of its entrances, whether through Córdoba Avenue or the crowded pedestrian Florida St.
In addition to the giant tree, visitors may also take a photograph of themselves standing by two dummies that imitate Santa Claus and Maradona, the greatest sport idol in our country.
Alto Palermo Shopping does not fall behind. A giant tree nicely decorated and full of lights invites visitors to wait under its shade at the Santa Fe Avenue entrance before they enter the venue to do some shopping. Inside, Santa Claus flies in the air carrying presents on his sled pulled by a long line of moose as hundreds of children just observe.
The same happens with the rest of the shopping malls in Buenos Aires, which have been decorated with ribbons, trees and colorful ornaments seen from many blocks before reaching the venues and enjoying their magic. Children may also meet Santa Claus there, be photographed with him or hand in their letters asking for a gift.
The streets of the city are also decorated. The most important avenues, such as Santa Fe, Callao, Corrientes or 9 de Julio itself, or the small traditional streets of porteño neighborhoods such as San Telmo, Palermo, Belgrano, Recoleta, la Boca or downtown, are decorated with the colors of Santa Claus.
In addition to the Obelisk, which -whether decorated or not- is the main Christmas tree in the city, hundreds of other trees are lighted up every night. Some of them by the citizens and others by some institutions that have resolved to take part in the Christmas cause, as everybody else.
Therefore, even if there is no snow like in New York, or moose as in Montreal, or camels and wise men as in the Middle East, this city becomes unforgettable during this time of the year. Impossible to be ignored.
Buenos Aires enables us to dream again, just like when we were children and the possibility of running across aloof Santa round the corner could certainly come true.