La Semana

Latin America’s rich tapestry of Christmas traditions


Mexico: 'Las Posadas' and 'Noche Buena'

In Mexico, Christmas is a deeply religious and family-oriented celebratio­n. 'Las Posadas,' a nine-day event leading up to Christmas Eve, re-enacts Mary and Joseph's search for shelter. Each evening, procession­s move from house to house with participan­ts holding candles and singing carols. The culminatio­n is the 'Noche Buena' on December 24th, featuring a late-night feast that includes tamales, atole, and ponche navideño.

Guatemala: 'La Quema del Diablo' and Elaborate Nativity Scenes

Guatemala's Christmas celebratio­ns start on December 7th with 'La Quema del Diablo' (The Burning of the Devil), symbolizin­g the eliminatio­n of evil. Families gather to burn trash and e-gies of the devil. Guatemalan­s also create elaborate nativity scenes, often using sawdust and other materials to craft detailed settings.

Venezuela: Roller-skating to Mass

A unique tradition in Caracas, Venezuela, sees residents roller-skating to early morning Christmas Masses. The streets are often closed to tra-c to ensure the safety of the skaters. This unusual yet festive custom is followed by gatherings where families enjoy traditiona­l foods like hallacas, a type of tamale.

Colombia: 'La Novena de Aguinaldos' and 'Día de las Velitas'

In Colombia, the Christmas season begins with 'Día de las Velitas' (Day of the Little Candles) on December 7th. People place candles and paper lanterns in their windows, balconies, and gardens. The 'Novena de Aguinaldos' is a nine-day series of prayers leading up to Christmas, often accompanie­d by gatherings and carol singing.

Brazil: 'Papai Noel' and Festive Banquets

In Brazil, 'Papai Noel' (Father Noel) is the gift-bringer, with Christmas being a summertime celebratio­n. Families gather for large banquets on Christmas Eve, enjoying dishes like Chester (a type of roasted chicken), farofa (a toasted cassava &our mixture), and panettone. Fireworks at midnight mark the beginning of Christmas Day.

Argentina: 'Nochebuena' and 'Globo' Tradition

Argentinia­ns celebrate 'Nochebuena' (Christmas Eve) with grand feasts that often extend into the early hours of Christmas Day. The festive meal includes barbecued meat, salads, and sweet treats like pan dulce and turrón. A unique tradition is the launching of globos, paper balloons that are lit from inside and sent into the night sky.

Peru: 'Chocolatad­as' and Folk Dances

Peru's Christmas festivitie­s are known for 'chocolatad­as,' where hot chocolate is served with panettone. Nativity scenes, called 'nacimiento­s,' are a focal point in homes. In the Andean regions, folk dances and music add to the festive atmosphere.

Chile: 'Pascua' and 'Viejo Pascuero'

In Chile, Christmas is often referred to as 'Pascua.' 'Viejo Pascuero' (Old Man Christmas) is the Chilean Santa Claus. Families gather for meals that include roasted turkey and pan de Pascua, a Germaninsp­ired Christmas cake. The celebratio­n is a blend of religious observance and summer festivity.

El Salvador: Elaborate Fireworks Displays

Salvadoran­s mark Christmas with elaborate Kreworks displays, rivaling those of New Year's Eve. Families come together to enjoy traditiona­l meals and participat­e in church services. Fireworks, music, and dancing are integral parts of the celebratio­n.

These diverse customs across Latin America exemplify the region's rich cultural tapestry. From religious ceremonies to festive gatherings, Christmas in Latin America is a time of joy, re&ection, and community, celebrated with unique traditions passed down through generation­s. (La Semana)

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