Everyone has special memories associated with Christmas. The same happens with the members of this Light House family, the company responsible for the publication of Vogue and GQ in Portugal. Therefore, we decided to open up the memory album, and share it with all our readers. As proof of our immense, and immeasurable, love.
Sara Andrade New Projects Director
My dearest Christmas stories always begin in the same place: Funchal. The place where I’ve spent every Christmas of my childhood and later on, sharing my grandparents’ house with my most immediate family. The double-storied house, where we even managed to gather as many as ten people at once, had two big wooden doors with yellow glass, dim and scratched, and I remember being with my brother and father, inside, trying to look out because my dad used to say Santa would come in a slay. I must have been seven or eight years old, but I recall telling my father that yes, I could see the slay and reindeers and Santa Claus. I also vividly remember, how I hadn’t seen a thing. But I can still see that moment, shared between the three of us, that could just as easily have been forgotten in the archives of my memory, perfectly in my mind.
Rui Matos Journalist
There’s no music echoing on the hallways. There’s no one in a Santa costume. There’s noise and lots of anxiety. This because, one of these years I can’t really pin point anymore because I actively erased it from my memory, my family decided to do an extended version of Christmas, with a full table surrounded by uncles and cousins, in a very cinematographic scene, with a cast of over 20 people. The horror. The tragedy. Everyone was speaking on top of everyone. Ideals weren’t really compatible amongst those sitting next to each other. And people’s likings were so divergent that I would risk saying there were about three or four Berlin walls on that living room. The worst part was when time came to exchange gifts, of course! An endless rampage kickstarted by my younger cousins, in unlimited hysteria and squeaking. A second-rate scary movie not even the most alternative ones amongst us could endure… The way I see it, Christmas night is about being in pajamas all day, putting on the most comfortable thing we own for dinner, spending the night at my parent’s house, with my brother and godparents, talking in front of the fireplace. That is what a special Christmas looks like – it might seem dull, but it’s all I need and ask for. And it goes without saying that my parents never really got themselves into a Christmas eve that involved more than 7 people…
Ana Murcho Features Editor
I haven’t always been this Grinch that to this day shudders to the thought of “Christmas decorations”. There was a time where I genuinely enjoyed the season. When I was a kid, for example. I remember spending Christmas Eve at my aunt’s, with all the mess and noise generated by the impact of 20 people trying to get it together in uncontrollable chaos. It was delicious. Amongst the dinners that would last way beyond the midnight mass (which we never attended) and the playing around typical of a bunch of kids who no longer believed in Santa Claus and just wanted to figure out where their presents were hidden. There was a certain magic in the air that got lost with time and with the absence of people that, as time went by, went away. I recall that year where, in the middle of the wrapping revolution, me and my cousins threw half a toy into the fireplace, something we only noticed when the smell of something burning was too intense for it to be “just paper”. Or that time, probably one of the last few ones we had as a big, happy family when my grandmother told my cousin: “That’s so pretty, Filipinha, who gave it to you?” To what she, in disbelief, replied: “You gave it to me! Do you not recall buying it?” Christmas, nowadays, is much gloomier, it has a lot less of everything, but I swear I can almost still hear my grandmother, who is watching from above, laughing uncontrollably, a burst of laughter that distilled happiness and love.
Paula Bento Editorial Assistant
It was the year 2004, my daughter was three years old back then. I remember how that Christmas was unlike any other. For the first and only time, I managed to bring together four generations of the family: me, my daughter, my mother, and my two grandmothers, from my mother’s and my father’s side. My grandmas (who’re no longer with us) were touched to see their beloved great-granddaughter delighted with all the Christmas ambiance. That year, I did something new… I went to the sierra searching for moss (large, humid chunks of moss that I placed in a box) to cover the ground around the Christmas tree, creating a rug where I’d place the nativity scene. My grandmother on my dad’s side had always been gifted for the confection of filhoses and coscorões and, that evening, we were all gathered around her and the stove, where spoon after spoon, the dough would dance around the heated oil, turning into the most delicious of pastries. It was such a characteristic smell I to this day would be able to identify it. My grandma would always work the dough the night before, in a huge clay bowl and would wrap it up in a blanket, leaving it to leaven until the consistency was just right. Me and my mom were responsible for the cutting and decoration of the coscorões, for which we would use special tools, drawing zigzags on them to set them apart from the other fried things. In the end, my father would come, rolling the dough in a mix of cinnamon and sugar, giving them the final touch. When midnight came, we would hear Santa’s voice. No other than my brother, that always adored Santa Claus and, voluntarily, offered for the role, with a giant belly, a fictional beard, and some dark sunglasses so my daughter wouldn’t recognize him. This moment could have been a huge success, had not the kid started crying, loudly and desperately, pushing Santa away. My brother put in his best efforts to bring joy to that moment, showing her how the man in the beard was a good guy that came bearing gifts, but she wouldn’t even look at him. I recall the dismayed look in his eyes, who didn’t know what else to do to cheer her up. By the end of the night, we were all in a love bubble that is, after all, our family, that loves us unconditionally. I'll always recall that Christmas as the most special one of them all, and I miss having another one like it.
Maria Nunes Intern at Vogue and GQ
Amongst my family, Santa’s impersonator is randomly picked every year, but normally the older, most masculine figures of the house always end up playing the part. Up until that year, Santa Claus would show up at midnight to distribute presents and nothing else mattered. I never realized what family member was missing, or if the costume was well made. Up until the year my godfather decided to do it. A tad (a lot) younger than the past personifications of Santa, for him, some extra accessories were needed. When the emblematic figure stepped into the living room at the stroke of midnight, I immediately noticed how strange it was that the man in a beard was wearing sunglasses and, coincidently, ones that were very similar to my mother’s, which were not exactly discrete. What confirmed my suspicion was my (beloved) Barbie bright-pink cushion that started to slip under his sweater. It wasn’t that great of an idea to choose such a child’s such precious possession, one they wouldn’t let anyone touch, and carried around everywhere with them. With that they couldn’t fool me with any longer. I waited for the fuss to end and shared my conclusions, while shedding a tear (or several) of sorrow and disappointment. That childish wonder would never, ever return.
Helena Almeida Fashion Intern
Christmas, that word that derivates so many thoughts, so many word associations, so many attitudes, and smells. In my case, to tell a Christmas tale or something resembling that, I need to take part in a cliché that falls onto the word “family”. I can’t think of any story, one of those beautiful ones with an introduction, development, and conclusion, as it would be expected, so I’d rather think of “moments”. Being an only child turns most moments lived during Christmas into independent experiences, if I can call them that, even during my upbringing. That being said, there’s no Christmas story that is more beautiful, in my perspective, than a full table, filled with laughter, conversation, and eventually, a couple of wine stains on the most perfect towel grandma bought for the occasion, and the everyday life news we retell around that table. That moment of fraternity and love amongst all those who felt it as if it were a cloud were enough, a cloud of glitter and cinnamon, that floated above the table invoking the word love, the love we feel for each other. A love that grows every year around that rectangle which we call table. This is my story, the one that reveals the most important part of me: the love I feel for my own, for my family.
Marta Castro Advertisement & Events Manager
My strongest memories of Christmas take me back to when I was younger, I believe that when we’re little we live Christmas with a different intensity than when we become adults. I come from a large family, so when we get together, the house fills up, loudly, and confusion dictates most of our encounters. And it’s not a scenario reserved for Christmas time either, we’re not that type of family that doesn’t see each other the whole year, and only on special occasions do we meet. For as long as I can remember, we’ve kept the same traditions, which we’ve adapted as we grew up. When me and my cousins were little we never longed for a place at the grown-up’s table, we wanted to have dinner as fast as possible so we could go and take a peek into the presents to see if Santa got us all we asked for in the letter we wrote him. Although the midnight rule was imposed at home, I remember once, we, the children, got together and invaded the adults’ table with Christmas caroling because dinner was taking too long and we were afraid they wouldn’t be done in time. I recall every SingStar contest and every Buzz match we played while waiting for Santa to come. I remember the disappointment on my cousin’s face when she figured out that Santa was her mother, after many years of “Mom you lost the presents, where were you?” and the answer would always be the same: “I can’t believe this, I was in the bathroom again!” – to this day, my aunt plays the role of Santa. There are too many memories and at this moment, after going through them, I feel like a kid again who can’t wait to see her family walk through the door on December 24th.
Diego Armés Managing Editor
Sometimes I miss my brother. My family was never one to do massive gatherings if we take out the weddings of second and third-degree cousins I had to attend as a child and that would always leave me thinking I was relative to a substantial part of the Portuguese population. However, Christmas at ours were always kept small: me, my brother, my parents, punctually my grandparents on my mother’s side, a full table and without a doubt, a board game that would be the first present to be taken out from under the tree and unwrapped for everyone’s delight (my dad is the most childish one of us all: at 10 pm, still in the middle of dessert, he can’t help himself to ask – and insist – if we can open the first present already). This one time, during a Christmas in the late 90s, the boardgame at hand was Trivial Pursuit. We started playing and wouldn’t stop. My parents, in the meantime, gave up; me and my brother kept going. I remember realizing that, for the multiple-choice questions, the right answer was always the middle one (there were three options, A, B, and C), therefore I responded to one of those questions recklessly, “The middle one.” I was wrong and, deeply ashamed, I let out a little “Pôxa”, something Brazilian actors would say in Globo’s soap operas whenever they felt disappointed. And then we started laughing and kept going, as the laughter got stronger and stronger until it became uncontrollable – to the point where my mother had to get up and ask us to keep it down (my brother, around this time, was rolling on the floor, crying in laughter). Sometimes I miss that Christmas.
Mariana Matos Graphic designer
To many, Christmas is a jubilant time, a symbol of family, food, presents, lights. However, some “misfortunate” ones don’t consider Christmas, for whatever reason, that special of a time… Mystery of mysteries, I’m one of those people. In an effort to try and see the season on the positive side, ever since I was a little girl I have taken shelter in long cinema sessions that the four general channels on television offered me – yes, I’m a 90s kid who, during her childhood, didn’t have access to cable channels or, later on, futuristic TV boxes that would allow us to go back in time. Thus, I made these “opening” nights on television my own tradition, to the point of swallowing my dinner in one sitting. However, such tradition came to an auspicious halt in the year 2009. I remember it being the most tempestuous Christmas of my life, not due to an overload of tasks, but because there was a thunderstorm like no other ranging outside – I remind you that most of the country had a power cut that lasted for a few days, including my house. That year, the star of my schedule was Pixar’s Wall-E, which had premiered in theaters twelve months prior, and that I was so looking forward to watching. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t shed some tears that day, since throughout the evening, including the candle-lit dinner, I had kept hope that the power would come back on miraculously. Spoiler alert, it didn’t… Only two years later would I carry out my revenge and manage to watch the movie resorting to illegal schemes. I’m a criminal, I know. Shhh… As 2020 comes to an end (finally!), the so very awaited holiday season is approaching. The programming hasn’t been disclosed yet, but you know where to find me – stretched out in my chaise longue, curled up in blankets like a burrito, in front of the TV – crossing my fingers that that tragic Christmas doesn’t repeat itself.
José Santana Director GQ
I can’t remember how old I was when I figured out Santa Claus wasn’t real. I don’t remember my age, but I’ll never forget that moment. Maybe because my mother was a very religious person, Christmas was always the pinnacle of celebrations in my family. Back in Luanda, when I was around six, I saw Santa, many years later I found out it was one of my sisters playing the part, but that moment, as if it were a police investigation, was engraved in my memory as the ultimate proof of his existence. After Angola, I moved to a small town in Galicia, where my grandparents on my mother’s side were from. During those years, Santa Claus and the Magi coexisted together. Christmas wasn’t all about presents, it was the sound, the lights, the smells, logs burning in the fireplace, and, of course, the birth of baby Jesus. Nativity scenes always fascinated me and in that little village, this season, every store had one on display. Because my dad couldn’t get a job, at ten years old I came to Lisbon. The smells changed, but the fascination for Christmas didn’t. That was where, for the first time, I started being confronted by colleagues of mine, that looked like they knew more of life than I did, like how Santa Claus wasn’t real – a line that separates our childhood from adulthood. And if at that point, being a kid was a motive for joy, today I wonder if they regret having let go of their youth's innocence so fast. But I had “forensic” evidence, I saw him, and when none of my school mates believed me anymore, I would put aside some of my lunch money throughout December so that I could buy one Christmas ball every day, at the fair in front of the Cais do Sodré train station, and the highpoint of my day would be coming home and putting it on our tree. And then came that day, the one where I can’t exactly recall how old I was, but I remember being sat inside our car alone with my mother while we were waiting for my father and telling her that Santa Claus didn’t exist. She denied and I insisted, as a boy who wasn’t a kid anymore. The more she denied the more I insisted, secretly wishing she would deny it for eternity, and when I least expected it, she finally told me what I didn’t want to hear. I’m not sure she realized I was crying in silence for the whole ride back home. For a while, Christmas lost its most magical side that made me believe the world became a better place around that time of year and that every child had presents for Christmas. And then I became a father, and questioned myself if it would make sense to impose on my daughter the heartbreak I felt, but to spare her of it would be taking away all the magic I also lived, and that’s how parents become one of the millions of Santa’s around the world and it’s possible that it all becomes a little better this season. Perhaps because we remember the time we were kids and believed in Santa Claus.
Translated from the original article from Vogue Portugal's Love issue, published in December 2020.