If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Latin America for Christmas, you’re in for a treat! Throughout the incredibly diverse region, holiday traditions range from ornate Catholic mass services to traditional parades (lasting sometimes over 12 hours!).
Here in Latin America, Christmas is rarely just a single day. You’ll find yourself celebrating for days, weeks, or months in preparation for the big event. Not yet convinced you should grab those last-minute flight deals? Read on to find your favorite unique tradition to take part in this year!
1. MÉXICO – Noche de los Rábanos
The Night of the Radishes is celebrated every December 23rd in Oaxaca, Mexico, and features elaborate displays made entirely from carved radishes (we'll forgive them for not using pumpkins!). The exhibits typically depict the birth of Jesus, but other times they feature monsters, snowmen, or even art in protest.
2. VENEZUELA - Rollerskating to Mass
Every year for Christmas morning in Caracas, the streets are closed off to make way for the masses, on their way to mass. The chosen mode of transit this festive morning? Roller skates! Bringing back the 90's without the pink and lycra.
3. ECUADOR - Pase del Niño
Here’s the 12 hour parade we’ve been talking about. In El Nomad’s home city of Cuenca, Christmas Eve is celebrated with a day-long parade featuring everything from classic nativity scenes, to local indigenous culture and dance, to stilt-walkers and acrobats! Anyone can participate (even visitors) as long as you’re willing to start lining up at 5am!
4. MÉXICO - Día de los Reyes
To celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings on January 6th, families in Mexico dine on Rosca de Reyes (Three King’s Cake). Hidden inside the cake are baby Jesus dolls, and if you get stuck with one in your piece, you’ve gotta host a party and make tamales for the WHOLE family come February.
5. ARGENTINA - Noche de Globos
While many teenagers and young adults set off fireworks throughout the night of Christmas Eve, others send off paper lanterns filled with small candles, to create a scene of peace and tranquility (if possible!) amidst the sounds of wild explosions and even wilder fiestas.
6. COLOMBIA - Black and White Festival
Between Christmas and New Year’s, the city of Pasto celebrates Colombia’s rich diversity of cultures through a unique 3-day festival. Celebrating Indigenous, Spanish, and Afro-Colombian culture and tradition, the carnival’s main event is parade of participants covered head-to-toe in black paint, who are then showered with white talcum powder to represent the mixing of many colours and cultures in the country.
7. HONDURAS - Garifuna Wanaragua Festival
In Honduras, the Wanaragua festival celebrates the New Year through a warrior dance performance with a unique history. The dance celebrates resistance to British colonization of the Garífuna through decadent costumes including masks, ribbon and flower crowns, and shells tied around the dancers’ legs.
A majority-Catholic region, Latin America is big on Christmas, but that doesn’t mean they stick to the traditional when the holidays seasons rolls around. Know any other unique Latin American holiday traditions? Let us know!
And from the staff here at El Nomad Ecuador, Feliz Navidad!
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