Last year on Christmas Eve my plans fell through at the last minute and I wound up spending the entire night alone at home. I didn’t even head outside at midnight when the entire city goes nuts and blows up fireworks like it’s the 4th of July. So obviously, with another year under my belt, I was hoping for a bit more excitement this time around. Even after almost a year and a half in Buenos Aires, no locals invited me over to share a dinner with their families. I could attribute it to the porteño way, or maybe just inflation has made it difficult to feed the family, let alone an extra person. I’m sure if my friend Vero’s friends were meeting up again she would have invited me, but her weekend is filled with work and thus, I was left to find another option.
My friend Leo suggested I head over to Plaza Armenia at 9m to meet up with other travelers and expats from Couchsurfing. A forum showed that hundreds of people in the city without families were going to head to the plaza in Palermo Soho and spend the night with each other, and since I only had a plan to meet up with my friend Brian, it sounded like a good option. Brian came over around 5 pm and we began the eve with some comedy videos, beer and wine, while also saying goodbye to my Swiss roommate Yvain who left to travel across the country or continent, or world. He’s not really sure yet. Jumping up to Brian’s place in Palermo before it got too dark, we stocked up on booze and made a nice dinner of chicken, onions and beans. Brian knows how to make some mean beans, let me tell you.
In Argentina, Christmas Eve is the big deal, when families get together for a big dinner followed by midnight mayhem when it feels like you’re in a combat zone. No one really cares about Christmas day, maybe because this culture is so into the nightlife. Brian wanted to buy fireworks in bulk, and we stopped at the kiosk on the corner to get more while heading over to the plaza. I joked that the fireworks were a good excuse for losing a hand and the old man looked at me and said, “You have to respect the fireworks.” It didn’t exactly dispel the comment I made, but he had a point. The streets of Buenos Aires were totally dead, with maybe one or two cars going by, no buses and certainly no taxis. But at the plaza we followed the noise and found at least a hundred people sitting cross-legged and sharing drinks.
We started to mingle with some Colombians, Venezuelans, French and Brazilian travelers and expats. Midnight came and all hell broke loose. I finally lit my first firework at the age of 24, and all around us for at least an hour you had to yell over the sound of explosions. The fireworks continued well into the night, but more sporadically later on. At some point I lost track of Brian and buddied up with the Colombians, and we rotated from standing to sitting in the plaza as the sky got lighter and lighter. More bottles of beer and wine seemed to come out of no where, and passing them around in a circle we watched as the party thinned out and the sun rose. Finally by 7:30 am I convinced them to leave the plaza and head home, though they were on their way to search for breakfast.
Rolling in at 8 am, I could only sleep inconsistently for a few hours, and I feel the pain in my head and body today. Yet the juice was worth the squeeze and it was another memorable night in Buenos Aires. If I’m not mistaken I also got a new personal record for latest time coming home. Nothing screws with you worse than trying to get to bed well after the sun is high. Ah, Buenos Aires.