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The Big Christmas Feast in the Favela

Christmas tree in Complexo do Alemão

Clique aqui para Português

For the original article by Cleber Araújo in Portuguese published by Agência de Notícias da Favela click here.

Running around, trips to the supermarket, the search for fresh fruit, preparations in the kitchen, shouting about what’s missing and that someone needs to go quick to buy it before everything shuts. In the kitchen, many hands prepare the treats that’ll be enjoyed on the most anticipated night of the year. The seasoning for the chicken or turkey was done the day before. Nothing’s complete without the potato salad, cassava flour, lentils and barbeque. The touch of luxury from the tablecloth reserved just for this day. The beautiful glasses and cups come out of the box and decorate the table. New clothes bought especially for this day are put on. Meanwhile, the young ladies spend the day at the beauty salon because their look for the night must be impeccable, from hair to nails.

As the afternoon goes on, the stress and running around increases. It’s time to check the poultry’s roasted because there’s still the ham joint to go in the oven straight after. There’s an abundance of fruit of great range: from grapes to peach, watermelon to dried fruits, there’s a little of everything–even nuts and little coconuts, so chic! Everyone in the family feels great satisfaction in coming together to make all this happen. It’s a synergy that infects everyone. It can only be the Christmas spirit.

We can’t forget the main event, the superstar of this night here in the favela: the barbeque. Christmas night isn’t complete without it as it’s the nibble for the unexpected visitors who stop by. There’s no way to be without some wing, sausage, thigh, garlic bread and molho à campanha at the front of the house. At 6pm the charcoal is lit and there’s already dithering at the grill…! The barbeque is our starter. It’s there at the front door or on the roof terrace to keep the dinner table impeccable. The preparations have been made throughout the day and can only be sampled after midnight. This is how it is in the favela.

After a whole day of activity, it’s time for queues for the bathroom and final preparations. The final details of the table on display, checking if the beer and sodas are ice cold, if the wine is ready to be opened. Soon the first visitors arrive shouting “Is there anything ready there yet?” And it’s one of those who shamelessly grabs a piece of rabanada and a cold beer before leaving and going to the next house… It’s all part of it.

Around 9pm, with the barbeque in full flow, there’s garlic bread on demand, lots of sausage and drinks. Across the whole favela there’s only music and fun, kids setting off firecrackers, adults lighting fireworks into the air. Everyone’s caught up in it. Then what most impresses me begins: the doors stay open and everyone comes and goes, always tasting something and giving blessings. There are many groups who spend the whole night just making visits. There are those who can’t do the full traditional Christmas feast but even so, do what they can even if it’s just sharing dinner with the neighbor. The important thing is that no one is left out.

There’s still the secret santa to come. With gifts in hand, everyone confesses amongst themselves. There’s that moment of pardon. The annoyance only comes when someone intrudes quarreling. That’s when things heat up… But there’s always someone who reminds us: “Hey, it’s Christmas! You can sort this out tomorrow.”

So much joy, fun and peace: on the night of the Christmas feast in the favela, everyone eats, everyone hugs and has–even if only for one night–a good time. Here everything’s left behind. Everyone anticipates the moment to hug and forgive. I really wish every day was like it is at Christmas…

Cleber Araújo Santos, 40, is a resident of Complexo do Alemão who showcases the favela in in its many forms and moments through social media. He shares daily content through the Complexo Alemão Facebook page and through the Facebook profile of Mariluce Mariá, a local artist who paints in the community and has a stall at the Palmeiras cable car station.