The Christmas holiday season is extremely important in Latin American countries, where up to 90 % of the population practices Christianity.
Christmas in Latin America is known as Las Posadasor Navidad.It is celebrated throughout the region with special customs, holiday cuisine, religious services, and family gatherings.
Many traditional ways of celebrating this religious holiday come from Spain, as well as from influences from the United States.
Let’s take a trip through Latin America at the Christmas season. Can you find similarities in traditions from country to country?
Puerto Ricans celebrate Christmas in a very unique way. Christmas begins right after Thanksgiving, starting to put up our trees on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
“We light our trees and decorate our houses and prepare scenes of the Nativity.”
“After December 1st, we go house to house giving ‘trullas’ with music.”
“This is done for food and beverages. It is like having a party from house to house. Once it begins it may last till the morning of the next day.”
“Our Three Kings Day celebration is the most traditional.”
Children put boxes with grass under their beds on the night of January 5th. (The grass is for the Three King's camels.) The Three King's bring gifts or presents which they leave under the children’s bed.
“After Three King's Day, we celebrate the "octavitas“ which made up a total of 24 additional days to Christmas.Christmas used to last till February, except now parents have to go back to work and children back to school.”
The most festive time during the holidays is nochebuena("good night") or Christmas Eve A traditional meal consists of roast pork, black beans served over rice, fried mashed plantains.
The extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and seemingly every imaginable living relative, gets together to feast and dance to Cuban music. This is followed by everyone attending midnight mass together.
Midnight Mass or “Missa do Galo” (a “galo” is a rooster) takes its name because the rooster announces the coming of the day.Missa do Galo finishes at 1 AM on Christmas morning!
Like many Latin American countries, Nicaragua retains many of its customs from Spain.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas people stroll the streets where there are many things to buy: candles, Nativity pictures, toys and foods.
Tables are decorated with poinsettias, (named after the former United States ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberto Poinsett.) The flower was discovered in Mexico and has become the symbol of Christmas throughout the world.
A tradition in El Salvador is to place the baby Jesus figure in the Nativity Scene only on Christmas Eve, even when the Nativity Scene may be set under the tree a month before.
At about 7 PM, friends and family members start showing up at each other’s houses. By this time your ears are already used to the many BOOMs and BANGs from the noisy fireworks, that children start lighting up in the evening.
At midnight all the families count the seconds down to 12 when they hug and wish each other a “Merry Christmas.” Also some families practice a Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at each second before midnight, making a wish for every grape eaten.
The Christmas season in Colombia starts on December 7th when families light candles in honor of the Christ’s mother, Mary.
December 8th is a Colombian National Holiday, celebrated with a display of lights as each home will light hundreds of candles on the curb and sidewalk area.City streets and parks are illuminated with lights as well.
Christmas Eve is filled with a spirit of cheering and rejoicing. Family, friends and neighbors, gather to dance and eat the traditional Colombian “Natilla,” a corn pie.
The Christmas season begins in Venezuela on December 16th when families bring out their presebres (manger scenes) and display them in the most prominent part of the living room.
Venezuelan presebres range from the traditional depictions of the nativity scene to some bigger displays that combine modern-day electric trains and boats on the sea, along with the shepherds, kings, and the Christ child.
Traditionally, "El Niño Jesus", the Christ Child is the one who brings gifts.Children get up on Christmas morning and find gifts at the foot of their beds.
Processions, accompanied by musicians, work their way through the streets in the days before Christmas.On the last Sunday, food is delivered to the elderly as a way to honor the Magi who brought gifts to the Infant Jesus.
People who live in the mountains dress in their finest clothes and ride brightly arrayed llamas down to the ranches and villages…
Families bring gifts of fruit and breads to the village presebre and children often make speeches to the Christ Child, asking for blessings upon their family and their livestock.
A huge outdoor fiesta will take place (remember, it's summertime in December in Ecuador).
Manger scenes in Peru are often carved from wood by members of the Quechua tribe. The figures are usually wearing clothing styles from the time of the conquistadors, however…