Christmas Traditions in Latin America
By: Shahzad Bashir
With the arrival of Winters, Christian communities from all over the world start preparing for Christmas. There is happiness in the air. People are waiting for their winter holidays to enjoy the festivities of Christmas. Each country in the world celebrates this occasion according to its traditions. In Latin America, the majority of the people are catholic.
Therefore, this festival holds religious importance for them. They start Christmas celebrations nine days before, from December 16th to Christmas Eve. In these nine days of festivities, people commemorate the birth of Jesus.
Christmas Traditions in Latin America
Do you know that in Latin America, Christmas Eve is called Nochebuena in Spanish, and it is called Véspera de Natal in Portuguese? When the people of Portugal and Spain came to South America, they brought their religious traditions with them. This is why the majority of the population of Latin America is Catholic. The amalgamation of their existing culture with Catholicism has made the Christmas traditions of Latin America very unique. Let's have a look at some of the countries in Latin America that celebrate Christmas.
In Columbia, People start celebrations of Christmas on the evening of December 7th. They have given this the name 'Día de las Veritas which means little candle day. People decorate their homes with lanterns, candles, and lights.
They also conduct fireworks displays and dance to the music. Moreover, they arrange feasts known as 'buñuelos' and 'empanadas. This feast is very popular in Colombia.
Colombian people start taking part in Novenas from December 16th till Christmas Eve. In this tradition, family, friends, and neighbors come for the prayers till the day of Christmas.
Different people host this religious gathering every night. At these gatherings, people sang carols and ate lots of delicious food. People also decorate their homes with Christmas trees and other decorations.
Moreover, they use red and white lights and display them on their windows and balconies. An important tradition in Colombia is making the scene of el pesebre.
It is a Christmas nativity shepherd,s play produced by the Colombian people. At the start of December, children write a Carta al Nino Dios. It is a letter written to baby Jesus in which children ask about the presents they like.
They place this letter at pesebre and start waiting for Christmas Eve so that Jesus can bring presents on, Christmas Eve.
The Christmas feast is called 'Cena de Navidad', arranged on Christmas Eve. The dishes included in this feast include chicken soup called Ajiaco Bogotano, ham, Turkey, and Lechona, which is stuffed pork with rice and peas. Moreover, other popular foods include arepas, a dish made from corn.
The delicious dessert they made is the Bunuelos called chessy fritters, hojuelas, which is the fried pastry with sugar and jam. Another popular Christmas dessert is Natilla which is custard.
After having Christmas Meal, many people go to Midnight mass Church Service. Many people wake up the entire Christmas night, and the next day they relax and eat their leftovers.
In Mexico, people celebrate Christmas from December 12th till January 6th. From December 16th, Children start performing Posada processions. Posada is the Spanish name for loggings and Inns. There are nine Posadas. People start looking for Posadas, and Joseph and Mary look for someplace to stay.
To resemble Posadas, people decorate their houses with moss and paper lanterns. They also cut paper sacks in different shapes and filled them with sand. On this sand, they put a candle.
They decorate the houses with lightning to entice Mary and Joseph to stay at their place. In each Posada procession, children are given boards with clay figures of Mary and Joseph riding the donkey.
Moreover, children are also given candies. People stay in front of each house and sing a song. In the music, they depict Joseph and Marry asking for a room in the house. The children are told that there is no room in the house, so they must go away.
At last, children are allowed to come in. When children come in, they offer prayers of thanks. Moreover, they enjoy the party with fireworks, games, and food.
People hold Posada parties in each other houses every night. At the final Posada, the people representing shepherds search the place. When people can find Posada's house, then the baby Jesus is put into the lap of the person who is leading the Posada.
After that, families go to the midnight Church service. After the Church services, fireworks start for the Christmas celebration. The vital game which people play at Posada parties is Pinata.
It is a papier-mache jar covered by clay and filled with sweets. It is hung from the branches of the tree or ceilings. Sometimes, Pinata is decorated with balls with seven peaks around it. These peaks represent seven deadly sins.
The exciting thing is that Pinata can also be in the form of an animal or bird. Children are blindfolded to take part in this game. They hit the Pinata with a stick, and sweets are throughout it. At last, people rush to collect the candies as much as possible.
Christmas Eve is called Noche Buena and is considered a family day in Mexico. After taking part in Posada, people have their Christmas meal. The critical Christmas dish is Pozole, which is a kind of thick soup. In addition to it, people also eat salads.
The Christmas eve salad is called Ensalada Nochebuena. The yummiest dessert of Christmas is bunuelos. They are fried pastries with hot sugar syrup sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.
Do you know that in Argentina, the weather is warm? People start preparing for Christmas in November. The majority of people in Argentina are Catholic. Therefore, they also celebrate Advent. People of Argentina decorate their homes with lights and garlands of gold, green and white flowers.
White and red bouquets are seen hanging outside the doors of houses. They illustrate the Christmas tree on December 8th because according to their belief Marry was conceived on that day.
They put cotton balls on the Christmas tree to represent snow. Artificial trees are more common in Argentina than in real ones. So, you will find trees with different colors like blue and white.
The pesebre and nativity scene are also popular in this country. The pesebre is put near to Christmas tree. The people of Argentina exchange some gifts and presents only with close family and friends.
The main festivities of Christmas celebrations took place on Christmas Eve. Many people start visiting the Church in the afternoons.
The Christmas feast is eaten on Christmas Eve during the time between 10 pm till 11 pm. It is served in the garden, and mostly it is barbecue. The few popular Christmas dishes in Argentina are roasted Pork, roasted Turkey, and stuffed tomato salads with lots of different sandwiches like Tuna sandwiches and sandwiches with thin crusts.
They can be single, double, or multi-layered. Moreover, these sandwiches are filled with layers of Tortillas and other ingredients. Desserts are puddings and Christmas bread like 'Pan Dulce' and Panettone.
Moreover, the people of Argentina also serve fruit salads and different pies, along with chocolate raisins, sugar-coated almonds, and peanuts.
They start fireworks at midnight. Some people attend midnight church services, and some wait for the fireworks to end. People that stay at home open their gifts under the tree. Some people also go to overnight parties and nightclubs.
Another important tradition of Christmas Eve is globos. It is a paper lantern with a light inside it. The entire sky of Argentina is filled with lanterns at midnight. Many people stay awake the whole night and enjoy the night with their family and friends, and then they spend Christmas day sleeping.
The Christmas season in Costa Rica starts at the end of the academic year and the start of the holidays. Therefore, you will find many people reaching beaches. People of Costa Rica decorate their homes with beautiful flowers.
The nativity scene is the center of attraction for all the people. It is decorated with flowers and fruits. People of Costa Rica include all the family remembers in the scene.
Therefore, it takes a long time. To put a traditional touch on Costa Rica, people also have models and different types of animals. Christmas garlands are made of cypress branches and ribbons of red coffee berries.
The entire region is decorated with Christmas lights, and you will find apples at the sides of the roads.
According to the Casta, Rica peoples believe gifts are brought by Nino Dios (Child God, meaning Jesus) and by 'Colacho, ' another name for St. Nicholas.
On Christmas Eve, the people of Costa Rica dress in new clothes and then go to Midnight Mass. This tradition is called 'Misa de Gallo' (Mass of the Rooster) in Costa Rica.
After coming back from Midnight Mass, people take their Christmas feast. It includes pork tamales and chicken wrapped in plantain leaves for cooking.
In Costa Rica, Christmas is celebrated in the entire month of December. You will find many parades, rodeos, street parties, bull runs, and choral and dance festivals held during the month. The horseback parade is held on December 26th. In the last week of December, you will observe different Carnivals displaying big parades and dancing.
Peru is located in the Southern hemisphere. Therefore, Christmas takes place in the summer season. The first Christmas celebration was observed in Peru in 1535. The Christmas festivities in Peru are called chocolates.
At this festival, people meet each other, drink hot chocolate, and enjoy Italian Christmas cake. The purpose of Chocolates is to share the happiness of Christmas by giving gifts and food to less privileged people.
Many community groups, NGOs, s and churches still follow Chocolatades but it is also a tradition of meeting your family and friends. Pesebre and nativity scenes are an essential part of household decoration. Sometimes, these decorations are enormous, and sometimes, they are very elaborate.
The vital thing to remember is that they don't keep Jesus' picture in the scene until Christmas day. They made smaller scenes in a box having two doors at the front. These scenes are known as 'retablos' containing both religious and historical scenes.
However, Christmas retabolas are the most popular. Some people use artificial trees for decorations. It is a new tradition in Peru.
In Peru, the main Christmas celebrations start on Christmas Eve. They called Christmas Eve, Noche Buena. It means good night. People visited special church services from 10 pm on Christmas Eve.
This tradition is called Misa de Gallo (Rooster Mass). After the Church services, the main meal people eat meals. The Christmas feast is called 'cena de Navidad'.
The main dishes in the dinner include chicken and pork with salads. Roast Turkey and other dishs like tamales. The areas that are near to sea like to eat fish on Christmas. The special dessert of Peru is panetón.
The countdown of Christmas starts in the evening, and when the bell rings 12, people start wishing each other Merry Christmas. People drink hot chocolate or champagne and meet their family and friends.
The entire sky illuminates with fireworks. After celebrating the night, people go to sleep, and they spend the day of Christmas with their families and eating leftovers. In a few parts of Peru, people also organized parades.
In every region of the world, traditions of celebrating Christmas are different. It is a season of holidays and happiness. Many people also plan their trips to other countries. If you plan to celebrate Christmas in any other country, you must know the cultures tradition they observe during the festival. In this way, you can enjoy their festival and share happiness.