Being on the road long-term makes it easy to lose track of dates, and being in the Southern Hemisphere, where December means summer, doesn’t help. Soon, though, I found that Christmas was approaching, and I would be spending it in El Chaltén. Even though it didn’t feel at all like December and the holiday season that I was used to, I still felt like I should celebrate in some way.
Luckily, most of the people at the hostel felt the same way. Even though we were all strangers that only knew each other for an average of a few days, someone had the idea of cooking a dinner and doing a gift exchange, and we were all receptive to the idea.
For dinner, a fellow traveler who was a chef (score!) and I made huge pots of beef spaghetti, mulled wine, and a kind of vague chicken veggie stir fry (guess which one I was responsible for… I’m not sure how I became partially responsible for cooking, but the meal was an overall success! Thanks to the spaghetti and lots of wine).
The gift exchange, though last minute, was as fun as any other I’ve been a part of before. Because it was decided on Christmas Eve, we each had half a day and 100 pesos (around $6) to find an appropriate gift. In wrapping the gifts, too, we had to get a little creative:
We played a variation of a white elephant wherein each person was assigned a number and had 3 opportunities to either choose a gift, open a gift, or swap a gift. Turns were decided by random card draws. I liked this variation because it prolonged the suspense, and everyone more or less ended up with the gift of their choice.
Not many shops were open on Christmas Day, so many gifts involved snacks, candy, or little souvenirs like bookmarks. Since I was lazy, though, and determined not to leave the hostel at all on Christmas, I came up with what I thought was a clever solution: a massage coupon, with a 100 peso value.
So it seems that, even on the road and with very little fore-planning, you can still have a grand Christmas celebration. The holidays are not quite the same without family, but you can find great companions even in a group of strangers. At the end of the day, we had small gifts, full bellies, and shared memories, which is everything that you need for a great Christmas!