Heat wave is currently hitting Buenos Aires, with Christmas just around the corner, for many of the visitors who are from the northern hemisphere, it might not feel so much like the Christmas you’re used to. Other than the Christmas decorations at shopping malls and shop windows, the Christmas spirits in Argentine lay a lot in the sweets and alcohol. (For once, the beef is actually not the only one in the spot light!) Let’s take a look at what our typical Christmas basket includes and this will give you a good idea of how the Argentines like to celebrate Christmas.
The usual suspects are:
Pan Dulce – Literally means ‘sweet bread’. It’s white bread traditionally filled with nuts and dried fruits. Some may come in more fancy ingredients like chocolate chips, orange and lemon zest or even in whole-wheat bread.
Budín con/sin frutas – They are cake loafs. The ones with dried fruits are like the western fruit cakes, but they could be of lemon flavor, plain vanilla, marble or so on, depending on personal tastes.
Turrón – This sweet treat is pretty much only available in supermarket during Christmas time. It has a Moorish origen and the kinds that we consume generally come in 2 types: the hard ones are like nougats, usually come in a big block of almonds tightly packed in a candy made with honey, sugar and egg whites, some also are sandwiched between two thin pieces of rice paper; the soft ones are where the almonds are ground down to a paste and made into a candy with sugar and oil.
Mantecol – This is a peanut-based nougat. They are a classic sweet snack and dessert all year round but especially more so in Christmas/New Year time.
Garrapiñada de maní – caramelized peanuts. You can occasionally see street vendors selling these addicted goodies, especially in street fairs and weekend markets.
Sidra – This is the sparkling alcoholic apple cider. Some come in non-alcoholic version, suitable for children. Keep it well-chilled and it’s the drink to keep you ‘bubbly’ in holiday mood towards champagne at midnight.
Champagne – Argentines love their champagne. I’d go so far to say that this is the most important item in any kind of Argentine celebrations. The most popular brand is Chandon but there are a wide range to choose from, from cheap to expensive, and from traditional to pink ones.
For the fancier versions, you can also find wine, cheese, olives, olive oil, dried fruits, gourmet chocolates and other types of sweets and candies. If you are lucky to be invited to join a Argentine Christmas gathering, bring one of these baskets (or put one together yourself, you can find all these in the supermarket easily), you will surely impress them!
Lastly, we like to light a lot of fireworks on Christmas Eve/Christmas and also New Year’s Eve/New Year. Since during these important occasions, it’s all about spending time with families. The festivities are very family-oriented, we buy our own fireworks and light them up in the backyards, parks or rooftop. Oddly enough, there is no one place where people congregate. If you are in town, find a high place around midnight and watch the unorchestrated but still very entertaining firework displays light up the sky!