I always wondered what a tropical Christmas would be like and I still remember seeing this picture of a Santa Claus on a beach in Australia in one of my English lessons in high school. But is it really like this? Do they really think of snow, reindeer and christmastrees in regions where the temperature does not drop below 15 degrees Celsius and where no spruces grow?
Once I had the possibility to stay in Venezuela over Christmas I had the chance to experience myself what a tropical Christmas was like and by this find an answer to these questions. Which is: Yes, they do. Of course it was expectable in so far as Latin America was well influenced by the catholic Church, so it is no wonder that they think the birth of Jesus Christ an important event. And it is less north American Santa Claus who brings the presents but the baby Jesus. But still you can find Santa in some places.
This cultural confusion called Christmas, just as you can find it everywhere in “Western countries”, in Venezuela made me think again about what this is all about. Because it seemed so unreal to me. If you ask the people, many probably will say that we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But what do snowmen, Santa Claus, the Christmastree and Reindeer have to do with Jesus? Not much. It is just an inclusion of other cults into one big festival to avoid conflicts between different opinions. On Christmas we also celebrate that the days become longer again. And this is more likely what the Christmastree represents. What sense does it make then to have a Christmastree in a country where the length of the day hardly varies?
Of course it were the colonizers who brought all these symbols over into a place where they do not have much meaning, telling everybody that this is how we have to celebrate Christmas and now that is what it is like. It is a form of cultural imperialism, infiltrated, without real meaning on the local scale. And Santa Claus? He is no exception. A red and white Santa is for us to celebrate capitalism through one of its greatest representatives: Coca Cola.
Sure, in the end nobody cares really about these symbols and a lot of people just like to see colourful lights illuminating the darkness, eating good food, getting together with people one likes, enjoying some extra money, and having a little party for a few days.
So, let’s do not hide this fact by giving this time a name describing something we do not really care about. I mean, if you lived in a northern country you probably like the idea that the days get longer again and it might be worth celebrating. And if you really believe that Jesus Christ was born in the night from the 24th to the 25th of December and he is an important character to you, of course this might be a reason to celebrate as well. But the most common reason for all the people around the world who celebrate Christmas to do so is because of getting together, feeling good together and having a good time together.