Monday, 14 December 2015

10 Times in which Irish Christmas and Venezuelan Christmas were alike

They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I bet we could check any time in history and people will think that the taxes are unfair, the next generation is useless and lazy, and the end of the year should be celebrated.
But since I can't do time travel, I'll focus now on space. As I'm celebrating my second Christmas in Ireland, I can't help to compare it to the Venezuelan way. And even though we're seven thousand kilometres appart, I feel the similarities are very strong.

So, allow me to list the 10 things we do oddly alike in Christmas...

10. We're both very early birds: Both in Ireland and in Venezuela, it's beggining to look a lot like Christmas very prematurely in the year. Back in Caracas, you could mark the unofficial start of the season in mid-September when the schools go back to class and they start preparing for the gaitas, an inter-school Christmas music competition which is serious business (think a South American Christmasy version of Pitch Perfect or Glee).
And while Ireland's high-end department store Brown Thomas launched their Christmas section at the end of August this year (causing a big media buzz and exposure), Venezuela's Beco was not so far behind, traditionally bringing the green, red and golden stuff at least three months before it's needed.

9. We're obsessed with snow (although we don't really see much of it): Nothing says tropical Christmas cheers like fake plastic snow on fake plastic trees. Surprisingly, we do get a tiny bit of snow in the top of Venezuela's highest mountain (Pico Bolivar) every now and then, which makes everyone in the country go mental and try to go on a hike to take a snow selfie. 
Snow in Ireland is a less abnormal occurence, but it's still odd, and everyone looses it when the weather forecast predicts it (although 90% of the time it's just slushy rain that is melt by the time it hits the ground).
FYI, if you see an adult doing snow angels, throwing snowballs and building a snowman while everyone is walking normally, it's probably a Venezuelan seeing snow for the first time, and doing all the things he has watched in cartoons' Christmas specials.
Me or any Venezuelan, watching snow for the first time as an adult (Via

8. Christmas markets are a big deal: You'll find them in shopping centres, in parks, in squares... Lots of people go for handmade gifts and these are the places to get them.
Expect artisan jewlery, knitted stuff, chutneys and Chritmas cakes.

7. We drink something better than eggnog: Whether you are team Ponche Crema or team Baileys, you know that there are better creamy drinks than the egg flavoured beige thing that comes out of a milk carton. Both beverages are available all year round, but both are Christmas favourites, and even though they're brands, many people do their own homemade versions, which are actually really good.
While they have similar textures and serving sugestions, Ponche Crema's flavour is closer to condensed milk, and Baileys' is more on the nutty side.
You know what, now I need to find out what happens if I mix them... cheers.

* Similarly marketed during Christmas
* Ponche Crema's alcohol is 14% and Baileys is 17%
* They're popular with coffee and ice
* They're very creamy
* They're better than eggnog

6. We love Christmas commercials that make you cry: If it's emotionally manipulative enough to make moms cry, it will be a success. The saddest the story a commercial tells, the more chances it will go viral. Lonely old men, little children, pets... the cuter and more vulnerable, the better.
For example, Ireland was loosing its mind over the heart breaking John Lewis Christmas advert you'll find below:

And Venezuelans loose it every year since 1987 to the Plumrose add (or some variation of it), in which a little girl wants to buy honey glazed ham but it's out of stock, and the store manager stops the presses to make sure she gets a ham.

5. We prepare an extremely laborious yet delicious dinner: For Venezuelans, the dinner table consists in hallacas (big beef and pork tamales), pan de jamon (ham stuffed bread), pernil (slow cooked pork leg) and hen salad (oddly similar to coronation chicken) [by the way, now you get why the girl in the add was so upset about not having a ham for Christmas, we put it on everything].
For the Irish, Turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes, Brussel sprouts and vegetables make the menu.
Not the best time to be a vegetarian...
And in both countries, the Christmas cake has to be there, even if no one truly likes it. It's tradition.

4. Christmas crackers Vs. Cebollitas: There is something about tiny and controlled explosions that just seems to bring smiles to peoples faces here and there. In Ireland you'll have the Christmas cracker, wich looks like a giant candy and is filled with little toys or sweets and cute messages, and which makes a "pop" when you open it. It works thanks to the effect of friction on a shock-sensitive, chemically-impregnated card strip (thanks Wikipedia).
In Venezuela, you'll have the cebollitas (among many other small and safe-ish fireworks). The name translates like little onions and it's because of their shape. They also make a small "bang" but you have to throw them to the ground or step on them. They work thanks to a very tiny amount of silver fulminate high explosive mixed with gravel and sand, tightly wrapped together, causing friction when thrown.
Now that I think about it, both countries have a few traditions that involve cheerfuly burning stuff up in public, but that's another story.

Let it pop, let it pop, let it pop ♪ ♫

3. Last minute shopping: Despite the fact that Christmas arrives early to the shops in both countries, both Irish and Venezuelans can be seen running around city centre on Christmas Eve to get that last present or the outfit for the party they'll attend in two hours.

2. Lots of Skyping with scattered family members: In countries where immigration is common, you'll always have a cousin in Australia, a sister in Spain or a childhood friend in the States. And Christmas will be a time to get in touch with them, ask them what time is it there, and, if the budget allows it, send them a little something from home (usually food).
And if you are a Venezuelan or an Irish abroad at Christmas time, you'll probably try to do a mashup of the local traditions and the ones you grew up with.

1. We are just filled with Christmas spirit: You'll get the odd Grinch here and there, but in general, most people are VERY Christmasy. Both Venezuelans and Irish sing along to Christmas songs in a non-ironic way (and many even dance to them), it is normal to see adults wearing Christmas themed stuff (no one beats the Irish and their Christmas jumpers, though), we look forward to the office Christmas party which is actually fun, we go to Christmas shows and concerts, watch Chritsmas movies, and feel all warm and fuzzy while looking at the fairy lights in the streets and houses.


Well, whether you're in Venezuela, in Ireland or anywhere in the world, have a happy Christmas!

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