It smells like cinnamon and mandarins.

Lights are lit everywhere, houses and windows are decorated. It’s cold. We tight our coats up, we rub our hands on each other and bury them deep in our pockets. There are muddy boots left at the house entrance and music always playing.

We complain about the season’s turmoil, the queues and the chaos, we leave everything for the last day, as always. We run to be on time, we find the perfect gift, make dinner reservations, and manage agendas. We make time.

There is hot wine, flannel sheets and special pyjamas. We light candles. We bring pines and pine cones inside. We go out to see the holiday lights, as the cold freezes our faces and turns our cheeks pink.  We eat roasted chestnuts and drink hot chocolate. Children dream of Santa Claus and of gifts under the Christmas tree. We count the days.

We wrap the presents and prepare other treats through the night, the time multiplies. We can rest later. We call those who are far away, we think of beautiful things to say. We relive traditions and create new ones. We watch that movie we always watch this time of the year and fall asleep cradled by the Christmas tree lights.

Orchestras tune their instruments, shows and performances are prepared and churches are filled with choirs and chanting. We remember who is isn’t here, we dream with the ones we love. We count the seats at the table, think about our life and the year that has passed. We remember what matters. Sometimes we cry.

We buy plane tickets, borrow seats and improvise beds. The oven is always on and the air is soaked in sugar. We use that special china, the most beautiful tablecloth, and decorate the table. We plan menus and think of new recipes to add to the old ones.

We peel walnuts, eat Bolo Rei (a Portuguese traditional Christmas cake, decorated with candied fruits) for breakfast. We wear wool sweaters and thick socks and the world begins to slow down. We share the table and the night, tell each other what’s new and the same old stories. Children seat on our lap, we hold wrinkled hands, and we kiss.

The end of the year is near and it’s almost time to start all over again, but for now we have time. It’s the longest night of the year. And it’s Christmas.


This post was originally written in Portuguese. Click here for the original text.