Exploring Christmas Traditions in Latin America

Christmas is a time of celebration all around the world, and Latin America is no exception. With the region’s rich cultural heritage, there are plenty of unique holiday traditions to discover. From Brazil to Mexico, let’s take a look at some of the most cherished customs that make the festive season special in Latin America.


In Mexico, the Christmas season is known as Las Posadas, which translates to “the inns.” This is a nine-day celebration that starts on December 16th and commemorates Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem in search of a place to stay. Every night, people go from house to house, singing traditional songs and reenacting the story of the Holy Family’s search for shelter. On December 24th, families gather for Nochebuena, a big feast that includes tamales, bacalao (salted cod), and ponche, a hot punch made with seasonal fruits.


One of the most beloved Christmas traditions in Colombia is the Novena, which is a series of prayer gatherings that take place every evening for nine days before Christmas. During the Novena, families and friends come together to sing carols, pray, and enjoy traditional sweets such as natilla (a custard pudding made with milk and cornstarch) and buñuelos (fried dough balls). Another popular Colombian Christmas custom is lighting fireworks and paper lanterns, which creates a dazzling display of light and color.


In Brazil, Christmas is celebrated on December 24th with a big family dinner featuring roast turkey, rice, beans, and farofa (a side dish made with cassava flour). Throughout the holiday season, Brazilians enjoy eating panettone, a sweet bread that is a popular Christmas dessert. One of the most unique aspects of Christmas in Brazil is the Presepio, or nativity scene, which features not only the traditional figures of Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus but also a range of other characters such as farmers, musicians, and dancers.


In Peru, Christmas is celebrated with a festive meal, but the true highlight is the Santuranticuy market, which takes place on December 24th. This market, located in the historic center of Cusco, features a range of handmade crafts, including intricate nativity scenes, called retablos, made from potatoes and rice flour. Visitors to the market can also enjoy traditional Peruvian treats such as chicha (a fermented corn drink), anticuchos (grilled beef skewers), and picarones (a type of doughnut made from sweet potatoes).


As we can see, Christmas traditions in Latin America are rich and varied, reflecting the region’s unique history, culture, and geography. From Mexico’s Las Posadas to Brazil’s Presepio, these customs remind us of the importance of family, community, and faith during the festive season.

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