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(RNS) In Brazil, Santa comes in the summer and Brazilians near the country’s 4,600 miles of coastline hit the beach on Dec. 25.
So what’s a Brazilian living in Northern California to do, when the nearest coastal waters linger at about 53 degrees Fahrenheit?
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Head for snowy Lake Tahoe, of course!
That’s what an entire congregation of Brazilian Presbyterians does. Members pack up the presents, codfish, turkey and the rabanada (a kind of Brazilian-style French toast) and set off for the snowy mountains and the freezing lake three hours away.
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They even bring their bathing suits — required Christmas attire for Brazilians who live near its famous beaches — so they can hit the hot tub.
“This is very important to us because part of the family is far away in Brazil and they feel homesick and wanting to be there to celebrate,” said the Rev. Alcenir Oliveira
, pastor of the Brazilian congregation at First Presbyterian Church in Richmond, about 25 miles northeast of San Francisco.
Family - Rest - Family - Christmas
“So as we get together as a Christian family they are not going to feel it so hard and be sad because they are not there to celebrate with the rest of their family. After Christmas, they are going to be more motivated, more spiritually high.”
Oliveira’s congregation numbers about 60 people, all of them from Brazil, he said, except one, who is from Portugal. They have a Portuguese-language service every Sunday morning at the white-steepled church.
Christmas - Hearts - Homes - Brazil - Percent
But at Christmas, their hearts turn southward, thinking of the homes they left behind in Brazil, where almost 90 percent of the population is Christian. They long for the customary Brazilian Christmas traditions, like each family’s display of a “precipio” — a Nativity scene — many with human actors and live animals.
They miss the traditional Christmas dinner of codfish and rabanada and sharing it with...
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