In South America, Christmas is observed very religiously and people devote ample time to visit churches and cathedrals. Christmas season is more a feast to honor Mother Earth and a means to ask her for blessings to keep away plagues. Unlike other countries or continents, it is difficult to find a Christmas tree in South America however the creche or Presepio is displayed in a room to represent the birth of the 'Christ Child'. This tradition is very popular. Gifts and toys for the little ones are exchanged during the holidays after which the Presepio is removed. As part of the celebrations for Christmas, there are fire crackers, brass bands and dancing seen in the streets. At midnight, people go for a midnight mass after which they enjoy a dinner with their families. Read on to know more about how the famous festival of Christmas is celebrated in South America.
South American Christmas Customs
The customs that Brazilians follow are quite similar to the ones followed in the United States of America or the United Kingdom. On the eve of Christmas, families sit together and enjoy a meal before they attend the midnight mass. Children desperately wait for their gifts and put their shoes out for Papa Noel who fills them with presents. In Brazil, it's usually a grand feast of chicken, salad, ham, rice, turkey and pork accompanied by beer and fresh fruits for Christmas.
The Catholics of Chile observe nine days of prayers, accompanied by fasting, prior to Christmas. The feast on Christmas Eve is consumed quite late, after attending the midnight mass or "Misa del Gallo". The feast consists of turkey, salads, olives, seafood along with some local wine to go with the main course. The dessert is sweet bread specially made during Christmas along with cake, cookies and fruits. In this part of the world, the act of exchanging gifts is called "Viejo Pascuero" and Santa Claus is known as Old Man Christmas.
Here, the celebrations take place on the 24th of December as Argentineans believe that Christ was born on this day. People go to church, spend time as a family and then enjoy a grand feast. The Christmas dinner here is replete with pork, turkey and a variety of local dishes. After the feast, adults enjoy dancing while youngsters get ready to watch the fireworks.
In Venezuela, before children sleep on January 5th, they leave some straw and water beside their bed for the Magi and her camels. These supplies are replaced by gifts in the morning. If kids find a black smudge on their cheek, they believe it to be Balthazar, the King of Ethiopia who is supposed to have kissed them while they were asleep, as a sign of good fortune. Venezuelans still follow the custom of attending one of the nine carol services and their Christmas feast revolves around turkey and its varied forms of preparations.
In Peru, Christmas translates into markets getting busy selling gift items and decorations for Nativity acts that are conducted by most of families. Although, the Christmas Eve service is a quiet affair, markets make up for the lack of hoopla in the form of resounding music and songs. Children get gifts on Christmas as well as on January 6th which is considered to be the feast of the Three Kings. Christmas festivities extend to food also which is quite traditional in its usage of turkey and pork as the main meats.
The laid back South America wakes up with a pleasant start in the Yuletide season and then celebrates Christmas in a way that is both typically traditional and reasonably modern.
Read about Christmas and its traditions in South America and South American Christmas customs.