The holiday season in Latin America has a special charm…. Christmas and New Year’s Eve are two eagerly awaited celebrations throughout the continent and are celebrated every year in a cheerful atmosphere! Discover some of the traditions, sometimes surprising, of the holiday season in several Latin American countries!
Some traditions are shared
In most of the continent, Christmas festivities begin in mid-December, decorations appear, “villancicos” or Christmas carols are heard, and people patiently wait for the gifts that will bring Santa Claus… or the Child Jesus!
Many Christmas traditions are common to several Latin American countries. As the continent is mainly catholic, spectacular nativity scenes and Christmas lights appear in the houses during the holiday season. In Peru and Guatemala, nativity scenes are known worldwide for their originality and beauty. And even though Christmas time coincides in most countries with the beginning of summer, the decorations include the famous Christmas trees, snowflakes shapes or Santa Clauses dressed in winter clothes! Some enjoy hot chocolate, panettone and turkey at Christmas Eve’s dinner! But the traditional Christmas drink in Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina and Peru is canelazo, a hot drink made from aguardiente, sugar and cinnamon infusion.
When it comes to New Year’s Eve, there are also many shared traditions which can vary according to the country or the region. One consists in eating lentils or just put lentils in the pocket, another one is about eating 12 grapes at midnight and make a wish for the coming year. Also, if you have the opportunity to take a walk in the streets of Colombia, Venezuela or many other countries, don’t be surprised to see people “walking around with a suitcase” to wish themselves a new year full of travel! In many countries, you can also put a gold ring in your champagne glass to bring good luck in the coming year, some even break the glass!
Finally, according to the country, the colour of the New Year’s Eve’s underwear will have a specific importance and meaning. Some countries choose a particular colour, others several! Yellow, pink or red are the most common colours.
Others are specific to the countries
Celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve on Brazilian beaches
In Brazil, the main festivities take place on the beaches. Christmas is the perfect opportunity to share time with family and share a panettone but it is also the perfect time to go to the beach. Fireworks, nativity plays, concerts… You won’t get bored! And on New Year’s Eve, the tradition is to jump 7 times over the waves for a new year full of luck. It is also common to wear white as a symbol of peace and joy and to drop off offerings in the water for Lemanjá, the sea goddess.
A festive barbecue in Argentina
Argentinians usually organise a barbecue or asado on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. On the menu? Grilled meats but also lamb or suckling pig as well as the famous “pan dulce”, a kind of brioche with almonds, dried fruits and all kinds of sweets. One of the Christmas tradition is to place Christmas wreaths above the house’s door as a symbol of hope. On New Year’s Eve, Argentinians toast with fernet, a drink made from grape liqueur and a variety of herbs and spices such as saffron, camomile, rhubarb or myrrh. And above all, don’t forget to raise your right foot at midnight to start the year on the right foot!
In Mexico, reliving history
Christmas is one the most eagerly awaited celebration in Mexico. The Christmas season begins on December 16th with “Las Posadas”, nine days during which Mexicans gather with family and close friends every night to celebrate the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. These festivities also take place in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama. During these meals, Mexicans usually eat “el Pavo de Navidad”, a turkey stuffed with pork or minced beef and cooked with white wine and prunes. They toast with “el Ponche”, the Mexican Christmas drink made from tamarind, sugar cane, apple, guava, prunes and Mexican hawthorn (tejecotes).
Mexico is no exception when it comes to new year’s superstitions and traditions. One of these traditions consists of cleaning up the entire house and getting rid of everything that is useless before New Year’s Eve to welcome the new year. Some also slip a bill in their wallet to attract fortune.
In Colombia, the celebration starts early!
In Colombia, December 7th is the Day of Little Candles or “Día de las Velitas” and marks the beginning of the Christmas season. This festival is celebrated in honour of the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Mary and during which Colombians leave their homes at midnight to light candles and lanterns. Every year, they compete in originality and creativity to offer an amazing spectacle. In fact, National Geographic has declared Medellin one of the most beautiful cities in the world to admire Christmas lightings!
New Year’s Eve is the occasion for Colombians to sing “El Año Viejo” by Crescencio Salcedo, a song that has the same name as the giant paper doll that is built in some parts of the country as a symbol of the past year. It is burnt at midnight, a way to start the new year with new expectations! Moreover, there are traditions based on superstition such as putting three potatoes in the bed and, at midnight, choosing one of them without looking. If you get the peeled potato, you will be lucky in the coming year! But, if you choose the potato with the skin, your destiny will be completely different. Either way, don’t worry, you can always put a bay leaf in your wallet to get lucky next year!
Christmas dinner, a teamwork in Venezuela
In Venezuela, the whole family takes part in the preparation of the Christmas dinner and more particularly, in the preparation of hallacas, the star dish of the Christmas dinner! It is basically a dough made of corn flour that is stuffed with beef, chicken or pork with olives, capers and raisins. Everything is then wrapped in a banana leaf. The preparation is carefully orchestrated! The whole family gathers around the table, from grandchildren to grandparents and each one carries out a task: some take care of the dough, others of the stuffing, others wrap it all up in the banana leaf… a real teamwork! And all of this to the rhythm of Venezuelan aguinaldos, the typical Christmas music!
From the bottom of our hearts, the Moneytrans family wishes you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2020! And to make the holiday season even more enjoyable, we are offering you a FREE money transfer to the country of your choice with the promotional code HOME on our iMoneytrans website or application. Take the opportunity to accompany your greeting cards with a little gift!