What Does Christmas Mean to a Two-Year-Old?

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Ho! Ho! Ho! (rishibando)

What does Christmas mean to you?

To me, it isn’t such a big deal.  I am not some Scrooge-like figure who bah-humbugs his way through the holiday season, wishing everyone would just go back to work and stop enjoying themselves, but it has lost some of its lustre.

I think the reasons for this are partly because I now live in Brazil and celebrating Christmas in the 40°C heat just doesn’t remind me of all the wet and cold Christmases past.  It is also due to the fact that I am now self-employed, so I don’t have the shared anticipation of holidays and parties with colleagues.

But what does Christmas mean to my two-year-old son?

The answer to this question is far from clear, although if I had to make a guess it might be something along the lines of ‘ho ho ho’ and long afternoon naps.

A couple of months ago Father Christmas started to make his first appearances in the shopping centres in Curitiba, and so as dutiful parents we took Mr. T along to meet one.  The reaction was pretty much as I expected in that he was fascinated from a distance, but as we got up close to the strange man in a red suit with a big white beard, he just clung on to me for dear life.  He was almost scared to death just being within 10 metres of Santa, nevermind actually going and sitting on his lap.

Coca-Cola Christmas truck. Photo made on Vrede...

“Daddy, ho ho ho, truck, da?” (Wikipedia)

Over the last two months, though, he has seen thousands of images of Santa around the city, in school and now that we have put our decorations up, at home as well.  His name for Santa is ‘Ho ho ho’ and he takes great joy in pointing at him and saying ‘Daddy, ho ho ho, da?’ (‘Da‘ means ‘yes’).  Near where we live there is an old train carriage with an advert of Santa holding a big bottle of Coke and every time we go past it I hear ‘Daddy, pee wee choo choo, ho ho ho, da?’  I love it!

The extra afternoon sleep is due to the fact that the day care school that he used to go to has closed for the holidays and so he gets to sleep after lunch instead of going off to sing songs and play in the Wendy house.  Just like his mother, if left to his own devices he would sleep for hours on end.

I don’t think he has any idea of what is going to happen in a few days when he gets loads of presents for no apparent reason whatsoever.  Being the only grandson on both sides of the family he often gets presents at random times of the year, but not a whole lot of them together and at the same time.  I am pretty sure he’ll remember it for next year though, when the fun really will begin.

My favourite Christmas song: ‘White Wine in the Sun’ by Tim Minchin.

Happy Holidays to everyone who reads this, and to everyone who can’t be bothered as well.

What does Christmas mean to you?  What does it mean to your family?  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

Christmas in Brazil

Christmas tree made out of flowers in Curitiba

It’s (not) beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Celebrating Christmas in Brazil is wrong.  Christmas should be all about wet, windy and cold days that are short and oh so dark.  It should be about watching TV specials because there is nothing else to do, or wearing your dodgy reindeer jumper if you really have to go outside and brave the elements.

It shouldn’t be about wearing shorts and Havaianasor watching Father Christmas nearly passing out from the heat, or staying indoors because the sun is too strong and will roast you to a cinder.  While Christmas is often much better in Brazil because it is the height of summer, it still doesn’t feel ‘right’.

The 24th

The big difference for me is that in the UK Christmas is on the 25th.  The 24th, or Christmas Eve, has always been about meeting up with old friends who I hadn’t seen since the previous Christmas Eve, having a few (lot of) drinks and stumbling home around midnight.

When I was a kid, the 24th was all about going to bed and getting to sleep before Father Christmas arrived.  I was told that if I was awake when Father Christmas arrived I wouldn’t get any presents.  The excitement and anticipation of the presents the next day, coupled with the stress of not being able to get to sleep was almost unbearable.

And then my brother would wake up at 4am and demand to be allowed downstairs to open his presents.  When we were finally allowed downstairs all the stress was undoubtedly worth it.

Here in Brazil the big day is the 24th, or at least the evening of the 24th.  Families get together and exchange presents.  Father Christmas, or somebody’s uncle, will often make an appearance and give presents directly to the children of the house.  The 25th is less important, and seems to me to be a way of getting over the previous evening.

Flip flops

Flip flops/havaianas: essential Christmas footwear (rob surreal)

And now that families are more fragmented than in the past this can be a problem.  There is a lot of pressure on you to meet with all branches of the family on the 24th, and this has meant that on more than one occasion I have eaten a big Christmas meal at 8pm, followed by another one at 10pm.  I know this isn’t a uniquely Brazilian thing, but the lateness of it can make it very uncomfortable.


In the UK I would expect to see turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, parsnips  and Brussels sprouts, with Christmas pudding for afters.  In Brazil there might well be some turkey, but there will almost definitely be some cod, lots of fruit and salad.  There is a wide range of desserts, but the most ubiquitous seems to be a panattone, which to me seems like a big loaf of sweet bread.

The food part isn’t really a big deal for me as I have been vegetarian since I was 16.  Whatever meat you make I am not going to be interested, but at the pasta I am usually served here is pretty good.


In the UK some people will wish you ‘happy holidays’ instead of ‘happy Christmas’ in an effort to be more inclusive.  I like the idea, but the problem is that we don’t really have much of a holiday.  One day off for Christmas, another for Boxing Day and a week later a day off for New Year’s is about it .

In Brazil, the phrase ‘happy holidays’, if they used it, would actually mean something because Christmas really does mark the beginning of the holiday season.  From Christmas until carnival the beaches are packed, the offices are empty and everyone is enjoying the sun and, at least here in Curitiba, complaining about the heat.

Christmas in Different Lands

This post is part of a series organised by the wonderful Multicultural Kid Blogs where people from all over the world write about what Christmas is like where they live.  As well as this series they have a whole host of great ideas and material for anyone interested in raising multicultural families.

A Bilingual Child: A third language?

Language Diversity

Language Diversity – Tobias Mik (Creative Commons)

I started this blog over a year ago with two main objectives: the first was to keep my family back home involved and up to date with what was going on with their only grandson/nephew.  I think I have been pretty successful in this regard, especially as my mum is by far and away the highest commenter on the blogs I post.

The second objective was to record the language developments of my son as he, hopefully,  picked up Portuguese and English.  On this second point I haven’t been quite so effective because the blog has evolved over time but also because, until recently, there hasn’t really been all that much language to blog about.  I know that this doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any developments, it’s just that most of the developments have been going on inside Mr. T’s head.

Over the last few weeks this has started to change and so now I am hopefully going to have more material to write about as Mr. T goes on his bilingual journey.

Except, at the moment, it is more of a trilingual journey.  Unfortunately, this isn’t about him learning three languages in the sense that some other kids do, like The European Mama.  This is in the sense of learning Portuguese and English and creating his own third language.

Sometimes this language is a mixture of the two, for example his word por is a mixture of the English word ‘door’ and the Portuguese word porta‘. So that every time we go past the market around the corner he has to give us a report on whether it has por abri‘ or not: ‘doors open’.

Other times he has just made up the word himself, like in the old days when he used to say abudah‘ for ‘car’.

And some words, I think, are just mispronunciations of either English or Portuguese that have stuck.  One of the most obvious of these is the word dah‘ for ‘yes’.  I think this comes from the word ‘ta‘ in Portuguese, which is an abbreviation of the verb ‘esta‘.  This is a conjugation of the verb ‘to be’ in English and would be used for the third person singular, for example ‘He/She/It is’.  In Portuguese, though, if you ask somebody a question like ‘Ele esta aqui?’ (‘Is he here?’)  a common affirmative answer is simple to repeat the verb ‘esta‘ or informally ‘ta‘.

But, being two years old, my little bilingual child has got into the habit of saying ‘da‘ instead of ‘ta‘, so this is either another example of him creating his own word or he is actually speaking Russian.

Ilha do Mel: Curitiba’s Best Beach

Alfredo Andersen - Ilha do Mel

Alfredo Andersen – Ilha do Mel (Wikipedia)

Ok, so it isn’t really Curitiba’s best beach, but that is because Curitiba doesn’t have any beaches seeing as how it is up on a plateau about 1, 000m above sea level.  However, in about an hour’s drive you can be at the beach (assuming you aren’t trying to drive there on a holiday, when it can take 3 times as long) and they all have one thing in common: they are crap.

They are all long and flat without any real charm to them.  The sand is usually packed down so that walking on the beach is like walking on soft concrete.  The water is often dirty, and usually cold and the currents can be very strong.

There is, however, one exception to all of this.

Ilha do Mel (Honey Island) is an island about a 30 minute ferry-boat ride away or an hour and a half from Paranagua.  Most of the island is a nature reserve and the numbers of visitors are restricted to about 4,000.  As soon as you get off the ferry, if not before, all your stress disappears because the way of life here is a lot more relaxed.  The reason for this is, I think, the fact that there are no cars here so everything goes a lot slower.

On the east cost of the island, which faces the Atlantic, the wind is strong and the waves are usually very big.  I’ve been told that this is the best surfing in Paraná although, as a non-surfer, I couldn’t tell if this is true or not.

On the west, more sheltered, side there is practically no current and the waves are very gentle, making it perfect for families.  The view is somewhat spoiled by the huge ships coming into port, but you can ignore them after a few caipirinhas from the beach front bar.

You can walk up a few hills or just lounge around in a bar or on the beach.  There is music in a few places, but never too loud to piss anyone off.  There are boat trips around the island, or to go and find some dolphins.

It almost has everything.

The only thing that is missing is a doctor, so that when your 2-year-old son dislocates his elbow all you can do is beat a hasty retreat back to the mainland.

And that’s when the stress really hits you.

Further Reading

I am still reading ‘The Magus’ by John Fowles.  As it is such a long book, and I have so little time I think I am going to be reading it for a while yet.  It has become very complex but the writing is excellent and keeping my interest up.

A Bilingual Child: Language Mixing – Agua More!

Cocktail Caipirihna a la Wikipedia

Ice is water, does that count? (Wikipedia)

My parents have come to visit us here in Curitiba, Brazil for a couple of weeks and it has been interesting to see their effect on our son’s bilingual development.

He has obviously been exposed to a lot more English than when it is just me here.  But in addition, he has been exposed to different varieties of English and a richer vocabulary.  My dad still has his Irish accent and my mum switches between Brummie and Irish depending on how angry she is or how many caipirinhas she’s had.  They also bring with them different vocabulary that I wouldn’t normally use as well as a desire to spend as much time as possible with their grandson in their two weeks here.

One of the effects has been that Mr. T is now calling everybody ‘bad’.  It started out with him calling his do doe (granddad) ‘bad do doe’ but that soon became ‘bad nana’, ‘bad daddy’ and pretty much ‘bad everybody’, and this includes his favourite person in the whole world ‘bad vovó’.  He understands other adjectives like ‘good’ but so far has refused to say them.

We are trying to get him to use the adjective ‘nice’ and it is starting to have an effect, but ‘bad’ is still his second favourite word after ‘no’.

Although it is clear that he understands almost everything in either English or Portuguese, I am still convinced that he doesn’t differentiate between the two languages when he is speaking.  It seems that he only has one word for any particular concept and this word might be taken from English or from Portuguese.  The only words he produces from both languages are ‘bye bye’ and tchau‘, and ‘more’ and mais‘.

The Surfer - Ilha do Mel, Brazil

Water, water everywhere (whl.travel)

This means that in his extended phrases he is very likely to mix up the two languages, rather like a good cocktail.  This was shown when we all went to Ilha do Mel over the weekend and stayed in a Pousada called Estrela do Mar.  It is right on the beach and Mr. T has become obsessed with playing in water.  Every time he saw the sea, or whenever we wanted him to come out of it for more that 10 seconds he just screamed ‘Agua more!’ incessantly and as loudly as he possibly could.

Just so long as he doesn’t start shouting ‘Caipirinha more’ for a while, though, I’ll be happy.

Further Reading

I have started a book called ‘The Magus’ by John Fowles.  At nearly 700 pages it is the longest book I have read in a while, but the writing is so pleasant I think I am going to finish it quite quickly.  I am over 100 pages into it at the moment and I am still not sure where it is going, but the suspense is building up nicely.