This year as I do almost every year I spent my Christmas in Paraguay. In the countryside outside Piribebuy with my local friends. And as always it was an enjoyable time.
Christmas here in Paraguay is in many ways different to that in northern latitudes. The scenery looks nothing like what one would call a Christmas scene. There will never be a white Christmas in Paraguay.
Instead it occurs at one of the hottest time of year. Mid summer when the sun is at it’s highest in the sky. Furthermore falling as it does just after the Summer Solstice Christmas is one of the longest, lightest nights of the year.
However it is still Christmas and there is plenty to be experienced. All without the slightest chance of frostbite.
With the heat and the approach of summer decorations are not needed to bright nights. As such they are few and far between. The majority of houses prepare a nativity scene, a small decorated tree and maybe a few lights. Nothing on the scale that is seen in other parts of the world.
Every year Christmas seems to quietly sneak up on me. If it was not for the displays of decorations in every supermarket it would be easy to forget that Christmas was approaching.
In line with that the decorations in my house are simple these days. Just a small tree, some tinsel and a collection of Father Christmases and Snowmen. I gave up on lights years ago. They never really work and certainly don’t when unpacked again the following year.
For me to get into the Christmas spirit this year I started my celebrations as couple of days before Christmas.
Lights had been put up in the main plazas in Piribebuy. I had seen where they were in daylight but to see them properly they needed to be seen at night.
To do that I waited until it was almost dark and then headed into town. I had been correct. Everything looked much more festive in the darkness.
All the lights were white. That gave the decorations a look of clean simplicity. I was not the only one spending and evening in Piribebuy seeing the lights. Everywhere there were small family groups going from one display to another.
As for the lights themselves. The church was floodlit and in front stood a tall, bright Christmas tree. Then in the other main plaza lights had been put up over one of the pathways creating and illuminated walkway.
Then finally a couple of blocks away at the Paseo de la Memoria a pulsating tunnel of lights had been put up along the bridge. Then finally large numbers proclaiming 2023 had been put up and lit ready to welcome the New Year.
It was certainly well worth the trouble of a night time drive to see the lights of Piribebuy.
On the way back although it was hardly late at night I was alone and in the darkness from once I had left the town limits until I got home. As I travelled along I saw just the occasional set of Christmas lights flickering outside houses.
I then had one more day to spend at home before the real Christmas celebrations. The weather was very hot and very dry so most of my time on the 23rd and then through Christmas Eve was spent trying to keep cool.
Here in Paraguay it is on Christmas Eve that celebrations are held. These take the form of a family party on the night of Christmas Eve running through to the early hours of Christmas Day.
I had been invited to spend Christmas with my neighbours, so did not have far to go.
Knowing that nothing would be happening until mid evening I waited until mid evening before I headed down to join them.
When I arrived the meat had just been put on the barbecue and the drinks cooler had been filled with cans of beer.
As always with a Paraguayan Christmas barbecue there was plenty of meat on the grill. Several large pieces of pork and sausages squeezed into every available remaining space. It is important that more is cooked than all the guests could possibly eat.
The evening is mainly for the adults to sit and chat over an endless supply of beer. The children are on the whole left to make their own entertainments.
Much of this comes as a constant stream of explosions. They are all given several boxes of bangers to amuse themselves with. Fortunately they are small bangers so there is little chance of them causing any harm as they throw them around.
With my friends and neighbours I spent a relaxing and enjoyable evening. Just chatting about general issues and along with everyone else working my way through the beer.
Eventually the meat was cooked and ready to be served. It was by then well into the night and due to the size of the table the meal would be served in two sittings.
The first was for the children. By then they must have been quite hungry and the younger ones were starting to look tied.
Once they had all been fed and gone off to rest somewhere it was the turn of everyone else.
We had been sitting out on the front porch and table was now placed in the middle of it so that everyone could sit around in comfort. The meat was placed in the centre of the table in large bowls and serving dishes from which all could take what they wanted.
There was also a bowl a salad so that everyone could place some token vegetables on their plate.
The pork had been cooked perfectly and there was ample there for everyone. Like everyone else I had a couple of good size helpings and then left a little bit on my plate when I was finished to show that I was not leaving the table hungry.
Then it was just left to rest and relax until midnight arrived.
It did and we all welcomed the arrival of Christmas and took the obligatory photos.
I stayed for about another hour before heading home and to bed leaving the party to continue for a while longer.
The next morning when I woke it was Christmas Day. Outside everything was very quiet. Here in Paraguay with all the parties happening on Christmas Eve Christmas Day is like Boxing Day only much quieter.
Christmas Day is though for me when Christmas is celebrated so I could not just spend it in bed. Others no doubt would not stir until lunch time.
Fortunately I had a few presents to unwrap that I had bought back from England. Then that done I displayed them nicely and spent the morning listening to Christmas music.
I then made sure I had a Christmas lunch. Roast beef and a good bottle of red wine. Whilst I enjoyed them I put a Christmas film on the television. I may have been spending Christmas Day alone but there was no reason why it should not be a fine day.
Once all of that had been finished it was back to the Christmas music. Relaxing on the sofa for the rest of the afternoon.
And so that was how I spent my Christmas out here in the Paraguayan countryside. A stress free relaxing time even if it was a little warm.