Our Man in Buenos Aires – Christmas



Archie Whitworth



As in most countries, one can guess that Christmas is around the corner in Buenos Aires by the trees. Not the actual trees, which are now blooming in full, natural, healthy green, but the fake ones. The plastic pines, decked with red ribbon and bells and occasionally tinsel, their dark verdant colours pressed up next to bright shopping malls and busy highways.


There must have been a time in Argentina before Christmas became so dramatically ‘hallmarked’. When that time was is anyone’s guess, but for decades now, shops have followed the trend of globalization (or in Argentina, doing what the Americans do) by spraying fake snow and putting up plastic trees. Pity the poor chaps who have to dress as Santa in the over 30 degrees heat.


The festive season, from my experience in Buenos Aires at least, is about trying to strike a delicate balance between holding on to one’s old family traditions but bringing them into the current setting. I will never forget the Christmas where my mother and I religiously followed each of Delia Smith’s recipes for a perfect 25th feast while listening to carols – to the background noise of my brothers splashing in the pool. Baking mince pies and even finding a less than extortionate turkey in blazing summer can test one’s festive spirit to its limits.


We discovered recently at Thanksgiving that the best turkeys are imported from Brazil. Is this a recent pre-salt based phenomenon or has this always been the case? Maybe the fact that turkeys (and pines) have never existed in Buenos Aires suggests that some aspects of Christmas are doomed from the start.