In Latin America, for the most part, Christmas is a religious holiday above all else. This is because most of the Latin American population is Catholic. This means that many of the Christmas traditions in Latin America have a religious meaning.
December 16 marks the beginning of Christmas celebrations for most Latin American countries, with a 9-day celebration taking place leading up to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. These 9 days symbolize the Virgin Mary’s pregnancy and all the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. With this in mind, we’ll be looking at Christmas traditions for a few countries in Latin America.
Here we go!
Exciting Christmas Traditions in Latin America
In Mexico, Christmas celebrations go from December 12 to January 6, with the period from December 16 to 24 is a high point in these celebrations. ‘Posadas’ is a popular Christmas tradition in Mexico and is widely practiced by children during the December 16 – 24 period.
‘Las Posadas’ is Spanish for lodging or inn. In Mexico, the Posadas procession has people walking around and looking for inns or lodgings for the birth of the baby Jesus. During Posadas, houses are decorated with paper lanterns, moss, and evergreen. Children are given a board with a clay figure of the Virgin Mary riding a donkey as well as a candle to walk through the procession.
Nativity scenes are also very popular in Mexico and are referred to as ‘nacimiento’. Usually, nacimientos in Mexico are life-size and made of clay and many of these nacimientos are passed down through generations.
Christmas Eve in Mexico is referred to as ‘Noche Buena’ and is a day for families to have special meals and spend time with each other. Midnight is also part of a Mexican Christmas tradition and is known as ‘Misa de Gallo’ translated in English to mean ‘Mass of the Rooster’.
On Christmas Day, there are lots of fireworks everywhere.
December 7 marks the beginning of Christmas celebrations in Colombia with ‘Little Candles Day’ or ‘Dia de las Velitas’. On this day, the streets and many homes are decorated with lots of lights, candles, and lanterns in commemoration of the immaculate conception.
In Colombia, the December 16 to 24 period is also a high point in their Christmas celebrations and is known as ‘novenas’. ‘Novenas’ is time for friends, family, and other loved ones to come together to pray leading up to Christmas. During this time, a different household hosts the meeting each night. The meetings consist of the singing of Christmas carols, eating lots of food, and of course, prayer.
Christmas decorations are a big hit in Colombia. Homes are decorated with Christmas trees and other popular Christmas decor as well as little red and white candles to celebrate Little Candles Day and recognize immaculate conception. The nativity scene is also a part of a Colombian Christmas. It is called ‘el pesebre’. A common practice is for children to write a letter to baby Jesus (‘Carta al niño Jesus’) asking him for Christmas gifts they would like and then placing them in the ‘pesebre’.
Colombians have their Christmas feast on Christmas Eve, after which many people attend midnight mass to welcome Christmas Day.
Puerto Rico boasts about having 45 days of celebrations for its Christmas season. It begins the day after Thanksgiving Day in November and continues through December and in the middle of January. These celebrations are collectively known as ‘La Navidad’.
A common Puerto Rican Christmas tradition is ‘Parrandas’. This is a traditional version of Christmas carols that are sung during the night. Friends and families gather outside each other’s homes with instruments to sing. Parrandas is done in the form of a surprise so people usually gather very quietly. The intention is to surprise or wake people up by making a ‘joyful noise.
In Puerto Rico, ‘Nochebuena’/ Christmas Eve is more popular than Christmas Day. Friends and family gather on Christmas Eve to take part in a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas dinner and exchange gifts. As is customary in so many other parts of Latin America, they end the night by attending midnight mass to welcome Christmas Day.
Later on in the ‘La Navidad’ celebrations, ‘Three Kings Day’/ ‘El Dia de Reyes’ is celebrated on January 6. This is where they commemorate the three wise meant by visiting the newly born baby Jesus.
The final day of celebration of La Navidad is known as ‘La Sense’, a colorful and vibrant music festival that marks the end of the long and exciting holiday season.
There are so many vibrant and unique Christmas traditions within Latin America, and we saw this coming through in Mexico, Columbia, and Puerto Rico. We hope we were able to give you a taste of true Latin American Christmas traditions.
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