But for me my favourite thing about Christmas is that it`s a chance for my whole family to get together. When my sister and I were growing up we spent a lot of time with my auntie`s family but now that we`re older and many of us are living in different cities, it`s not often we all get to see each other at the same time.
So Christmas is always a time to go home and my annual pilgrimmage back up North has become a bit of a running joke after I`ve been hit by the snow for the last two years. Due to the fact that the UK pretty much grinds to a halt when it snows, last year turned into an epic 18-hour drive (which definitely put my Christmas cheer to the test.)
So for my first ever Christmas away from home it`s fitting that it was my cousin Sam who suggested I do something fun.
It was kind of difficult to get too excited in the run up to Christmas as it was very low-key here in South America. While there were some decorations in the streets and shops, there was nowhere near the barrage of Christmas paraphernalia we`re used to. During December I like all of my senses to be bombarded; I like listening to Christmas music, seeing houses covered in lights and running around the shops buying presesnts. I even like the cold weather. But there was definitely no chance of that in Argentina, where an unexpected heatwave meant that temperatures reached more than 40 degrees.
I`d decided pretty early on in my trip that I`d head to Buenos Aires for Christmas Day and, as these things often happen, I was lucky enough to meet some other English travellers in Peru who had the same plans so we arranged to stay in the same place. Arriving at the guesthouse (a special treat) on the 23rd was when I first started to feel Christmasy. It was really nice to meet up with other people I knew I`d be spending the day with and a visitor from home also arrived bearing important gifts of Yorkshire tea, soft toilet paper and M&Ms (all requested ´luxuries´ I`ve been missing from home - give me them over gold, frankinsence and myrrh any day.)
The party began on Christmas Eve, when our hosts organised a BBQ on the roof terrace and we saw in Christmas Day with the help of hundreds of fireworks the residents of Buenos Aires saw as their duty to let off (not necessarily always in the safest way - our neighbours, for example, were firing rockets from their balcony.)
Christmas morning was more of a traditional start to the day than I`d expected, as - despite heading towards 30 - I still love to get a stocking and as a suprise my mym and sister had sent out the one I`ve had since I was little. It was so much fun to have presents to open, which included the complusory pair of Christmas socks, silly games and a harmonica (in case times get hard and I need to busk, according to my mum.)
|Looks like Santa´s been.|
|Christmas socks - always a must.|
We then headed out to the city`s famous San Telmo market, which is held every Sunday and didn`t seem to let the fact that it was Christmas Day change that. It was actually suprisingly busy and it felt quite strange to be wandering around stalls in the sunshine.
A special part of my day was being able to talk to my family on skype. I remember when I first started travelling and calls home were always frustrating ten minute chats from phone boxes, where the card you`d bought for a ridiculously high amount always ran out before they`d said it would. So I love how easy it is to talk to - and see - my family now. It was so nice to hear about their day and have fun with them, albeit from miles away, and, unbenown to me, I managed to entertain the whole guesthouse with my rendition of Jingle Bells.
In the evening we prepared a huge meal with enough food to keep us going for the next three days. While it wasn`t a traditional Christmas dinner, we did manage to confuse the locals with out crackers and party hats. We`d also each bought two Secret Santa presents, which were allocated by a dice game. After opening the present you`d chosen, rolling the correct number could then allow you to swap it with someone else, which led to some fairly ruthless swaps - particularly over a novelty shower hat.
|The table´s laid...|
|...for Christmas dinner Buenos Aires style.|
|There was even a chance to wear the Christmas jumper.|
|The much-fought-over shower hat.|
All in all it was a very fun day and although I was thousands of miles from home, it still contained many of the elements which make Christmas for me. There was lots of food, lots of noise and lots of laughter and, of course, my family.