Christmas is coming! (at 6 in the morning)

Christmas fever started today out of a sudden. I thought it was a night dream but my neighbors confirmed: it was for real.

At about 6 o’clock in the morning, still in the darkness, the air in Camara de Lobos was bombarded by a round of fireworks! Echoing from walls and mountains in the sleepy town they sounded like grenade explosions. And then they were followed by an orchestra performance.

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I can’t say I didn’t know anything about it. One of my English students, Lucy, told us about the Christmas tradition of travelling orchestra bands which play early in the morning after church services and are invited by many houses to share rich breakfast and drinks.

A nice tradition, but today is 14 December and it’s going to be like that till the main celebration!

Another surprising thing here is existence of a church bar – it serves coffee, snacks and drinks after morning services during pre-Christmas period. This year we will be helping there. It’s something very unusual for us, people of Orthodox Christian traditions, because our churches practice strict rules of behavior, outfit and ceremony, and having a place for socializing, not to mention eating and drinking – is a shock.

However to be honest, many strange things have already happened. Christmas days started on 6 December with a 3-days party in the town centre: people celebrated Conceição – the day of Christ conception. (Pure miracle, Nicola said: usual 9-month period of childbearing went down to just 19 days from 6 to 25 December!)

There were artists singing on the stage and everybody dancing next to the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceição; a traditional singing performance – like a rap battle – directed by an old lady with two young men and an accordion: one says a rhyme and the other has to respond – in a witty and funny way.

What we especially liked is a local singer who looks like a famous showman Vasyl Zhadan from our home city. Ours calls himself Gypsy King. Apparently, they look the same in every nation!

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If you ask what’s the symbol of Christmas here – definitely “presepio”: an installation about Christ’s birth. It’s now in every house and even many public buildings: the library, the town hall, even in the bars.

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Yesterday we helped our landlord Lino to organize his presepio. His dog Oscar was running around but then was sent back to his floor because, according to Lino, it has the record of peeing in the presepio’s stall.

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Also, Lino has his own vision of characters who participated in the Child’s birth.

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The capital city of Funchal these days is shining from every corner and tree brunch, very beautiful. Zhenya brought these pictures for us.

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In general, no matter that our Christmas is on 7 January and we are used to having cold and snow around, it still feels good – maybe because warm feelings, meeting with family and having a beautiful celebration are universal things which don’t care about the borders.

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