For those from the Northern Hemisphere, Christmas in the south can be slightly anticlimactic. No snow and sweltering temperatures are probably the least festive conditions in the world. But it’s just a matter of adjusting your perspective, because who wouldn’t want to spend the holidays in the sun when everyone is freezing at home?! So how do Argentines celebrate Christmas, and what do they do for New Year?
Compared to the extended frenzy of Christmas in North America and Europe, this holiday is a relatively low-key event in Argentina. People often work Christmas Eve, spending the evening dining with family before going out to celebrate after midnight, then using the bank holiday on the 25th to relax and recover. Work usually starts again on the 26th, so Christmas is really only one day long. If you’re planning on being in the city for Christmas Day, whether Buenos Aires, Cordoba or Rosario, having an apartment or hotel with a pool is a must. Temperatures in the city often climb to above 40°C, or 104°F, around this time of year, and the heat and humidity can be unbearable without air conditioning and the respite of a pool. Luckily swimming pools are common in many buildings in Argentina, a country which is infinitely more prepared for summer than it is for winter.
In case you find yourself spending Christmas with Argentines, there are certain foods that are typical of the season. Forget about turkey, stuffing, gravy and potatoes; the Christmas feast in Argentina is an altogether different affair. Argentines tend to eat light food served cold on Christmas day due to the heat, and a selection of unusually presented meats and salads are the order of the day. A typical holiday dish is matambre with green olives, which is a selection of hard boiled eggs, olives and peppers rolled in a thin layer of butterflied beef or pork, then served in slices. Another typical dish is arrollado de panqueques, or a pancake roll. This is an odd merging of savoury and sweet, and is a combination of sliced ham and cheese, boiled egg, olives, artichoke hearts and peppers, wrapped in pancakes and smothered in mayonnaise, and again, served in slices. Russian salad is a popular accompaniment to the meat rolls, which is a potato, carrot and pea salad covered in mayonnaise.
New Year is not all that different to Christmas in a lot of respects. Argentina has a strongly familial society, so these days are spent celebrating at home with family, with the night free to spend socialising with friends. So, much like Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve is spent having dinner and ringing in the new year with family. Fireworks are a staple of the New Year’s Eve activities, and often people will try to be on a roof terrace for midnight when fireworks are set off. Much of the same food will be consumed on New Year’s, along with the typical asado, or barbeque. Typical drinks of Fernet and Coke or red wine, usually Malbec, will also be flowing freely.
It is also common for people to take a few extra days off work around New Year’s and rent a house in the country, called a “quinta”. These houses usually have a swimming pool and a parilla, or grill, on which to make a delicious barbeque.
If you find yourself in Buenos Aires on the 31st, one of the best options is to attend the free street party on Gorriti and Ravignani that goes all night.
Contact us at info@argentinaonthego to organise a special Christmas vacation or New Year’s holiday.