For Latin America, being a largely Christian region, Christmas is one of the most important celebrations of the year. A celebration loaded with great religious significance where the pilgrimage of the Virgin Mary and Joseph, and the birth of Jesus Christ, is commemorated.
Although the Christmas traditions that are practiced today have their origin in Spanish customs -which came to the American continent through the conquest- each country in Latin America has added its touch to create unique celebrations.
In the southern cone of the American continent, Christmas is lived under the sun because they are in summer. Being a country with strong European influence, specifically from Italy and Spain, Argentines usually meet on Christmas Eve to enjoy an Argentine barbecue and for the after-dinner, they usually eat panettone, a classic with seasonal Italian bread. At midnight they congregate in the church for the classic “misa de gallo”.
For New Years, in some cities such as Buenos Aires and Ciudad de Plata, they have the custom of creating a huge straw doll called “Año viejo” which is burned at the end of twelve bells.
In Colombia, Christmas begins on December 7 with the celebration of the “Día de las velitas.” A celebration that takes place on the eve of the celebration of the Immaculate Conception. The believers go out into the streets with candles that fill the doors of the homes, and according to tradition, they serve to guide the path of the Virgin.
Colombians are also famous for the “alumbrados”. For example, in Medellín the Festival of Lights takes place where the emblematic path of Medellín is decorated with huge structures full of lights.
Another of the main festivities of this country is the Novena de Aguinaldos, a celebration where 9 days before Christmas, families gather to sing Christmas carols, pray and finally enjoy a delicious dinner.
Mexico celebrates a rich Christmas. Among the best known are the Posadas: 9 days before December 24, people accompany the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph in procession as they look for an inn where the baby Jesus can be born. That day, they decide how many Posadas they will celebrate that year and where María and José will take shelter.
Another important moment is the piñata. The tape that they put on the eyes when breaking it symbolizes blind faith. Besides, the shepherds are also held throughout the country, theatrical performances that stage the pilgrimage of the shepherds to Bethlehem.
Finally, and although they are not celebrated in other Latin American countries, “Los Reyes Magos” are celebrated with “Rosca de Reyes”.
Every year in Cusco Christmas market is organized, also known as Santuranticuy or “venta de los Santos”, where merchants from all over Peru meet in the Plaza de Armas to sell their religious products, Christmas textiles, or typical foods.
In the Peruvian city Ica, there are strong influences from the Afro-Peruvian community that resides there, which is why the “Black Christmas” takes place. It is a representation of the birth of Jesus where most of the actors are Afro-Peruvian, if the participants are not African descendants they use masks to act in the event.
In Venezuela there is a curious celebration called the patinatas. In it, entire avenues are closed so that children and adults can go skating, either by bicycle, rollerblades, or scooters, which the baby Jesus surely brought them on Christmas Night. While skating, people enjoy Christmas carols that make the atmosphere super festive.