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In England our family, being Pagans, celebrated mid winter rather than Christmas but we always reffered to it as Christmas, we found it very strange to be celebrating in 36 degree heat and I doubt Christmas in a hot country is ever going to feel right to me. I’m used to the cold and expect snow, though having spent most of my life in London, rain was the more usual accompanying weather. Here in Canto Verde, it is hot, very hot. The sea winds have dropped and the building clouds are evidence of the coming rainy season but definitely no  chance of snow.

The village does not have much of a tradition of celebrating Christmas, though mass is held on Christmas eve, New Year is a much bigger celebration here. Neu finds my desire to decorate the house and, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, spend hours each night making things for the children, sweet but somewhat baffling. For him, the coming regatta was far more important.

The children had asked that I do roast chicken for Christmas dinner. This is more demanding than it may seem. The type of chicken good for roasting is hard to come by in the village, my first attempt a few Christmas’s back, resulted in a chicken so tough that non of us could eat it, in fact the only thing that came out well in that meal was the gravy.

This year I hoped to get it right. I had asked the butcher for a chicken I could roast, he said “We have frozen chicken”. I asked if it would roast well, he looked at me slightly blankly and repeated that it was frozen, OK.

My other worry was that the gas bottle would run out right in the middle of things. I’d just mentioned this to my mum on our Christmas morning phone call when the bottle gave up the ghost. Neu was out working on the boat, but luckily for me Neu’s dad was able to go and get a new bottle for me, no small thing trying to lug a heavy gas bottle over the soft sand, I wouldn’t want to have to do it.

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We had painted a Christmas tree, decorated it with glitter and lights, made an angel who unfortunately looked like she’d had her neck broken but she was there, at the top of the tree. I managed to get the kids to eat some breakfast and then the presents were opened.

I made my son a “S L” (as in Super man but with his initial) cloak and mask

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I made my other son a Chelsea flag, his football team.

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And my daughter a skirt based on an old one that she loved.

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All made from left over bits of fabric.

My daughter gave me a picture frame with a photo of all my children together, she had decorated the frame with pressed flowers from the garden, so lovely.

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Our dinner worked out well, the Yorkshire puddings were not quite done enough but the rest was lovely, we had ice cream and crème caramel for pudding, just to make our selves feel really stuffed, delicious.

Christmas here will always feel strange to us, but we managed to make it feel festive non the less.

©Claire Pattison Valente 2009

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