Celebrating Christmas in summer. The biggest question and trembling uncertainty for our five-year-old son during all our travels so far, was if Christkind will find us in Chile and bring presents. Deeply believing in something magical and being enchanted easily is one of the most precious things about his age, I think, but also a big challenge for parents. Especially when away from home without grandparents and kindergarten. So, it’s improvising and being creative with what’s available once again. Back in Mendoza, Sebastian and I thought about an Adventkranz that is easily transportable. We reduced it to the bare minimum of four small candles and had to choose between scented or swimming ones. From this point on, we would set up our floating Adventkranz in every accommodation we stayed in. You travel so you learn. Now I know that Adventkalender are common in Austria and Germany but not at all in Chile or Argentina. My solution was to draw my own, where our son would colour one drawing every day until the whole picture is colourful and Christmas has arrived.
The biggest challenge, however, was where and when to buy some small presents without him noticing. After three malls and countless little toy stores we figured that Lego is not easy to get in Chile. Moreover, where should we hide everything? We only travel with two bags, my bass clarinet and Sebastian’s photo backpack, so space is extremely limited. I took our last chance on the day when we rented a car for two weeks, December 22nd. I had found a newspaper article online about a newly opened Lego store in Puerto Varas, the only one in South Chile. Otherwise, there was no record of this store at all, but with nothing to lose, I first negotiated with the car rental guy and got a good deal because I paid in efectivo (cash) and then walked to the address written in the article. Like a miracle the store was truly there, and I could buy everything I had been looking for. Then, I managed to hide everything under the spare wheel of our newly rented car and headed back to our cabaña in Frutillar. Sebastian set out to get wrapping paper, candles and other bits and bobs from the local Mall Chino. After that, we leaned back. We had a plan, we had all the essentials, and expected a quiet Christmas eve. But it should come differently. After staying in many cities, we longed for a quiet place to connect with nature. Our choice fell on Chiloé, an island you can still only reach by ferry. We stayed at a wonderful place with the special name Refugio Punta Corona.
Paula, our host, was very kind and helped us wherever she could. In the morning of the 24th, she knocked on our door and invited us to have Christmas dinner together. So, change of plans. We would eat our Christmas dinner for lunch – Schweinsbraten mit Semmelknödel und Krautsalat (roast pork with dumplings and cabbage, all made from scratch), make some more cookies, get the boys out of the house (have them go to the beach to watch the dolphins) so I have a few minutes to decorate a tree in the garden with candles, apples, and mandarins and put the gifts (nicely wrapped the night before) under it, pick up the boys from the beach, celebrate Christmas, take a quick shower to be ready by 7 pm to meet our neighbours for traditional Chiloé dinner. We didn’t know what to expect, maybe we would head to a restaurant all together? However, we could not have prepared for what was going to happen.
Paula took us to her neighbours’ house where we went straight to the garden next to the sheep pasture. On top of an open fire place, there was a huge pile covered with enormous leaves. The women directed us where to take place around the big pile and the men gesticulated Sebastian that now was the moment to take pictures as they were going to lift the secret and uncover the pile. With each leave gone, we discovered that underneath was an incredible amount of mussels of different kinds, sausages, meat, two kinds of potato dumplings and on top a tray full of melted (sheep) cheese. Everybody was sitting around the Curanto, eating, and throwing shells on the ground. You could truly feel and see how proud they were to introduce us to their traditions and specialities, including piure, one of the most bizarre creatures we have ever seen or tasted. Even though nobody spoke a word English, we had an amazing time together, experiencing our own “Zu Tisch” episode. As the night moved on, we were offered a lot of wine to drink and tried to explain our journey and what we do with our broken Spanish. Finally, I even went to get my bass clarinet and introduced everyone to some of our traditional music as well as contemporary improvisation. But the party just started, and we celebrated Christmas the Chilean way with a lot of dancing to rancheras instead of a holy silent night.