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07 December 2022
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The cultural richness of Spanish-speaking countries: Christmas festivities

Have you ever wondered how all different Spanish-speaking countries celebrate Christmas? Today we are diving into some of these countries and their special traditions to celebrate Christmas festivities. Keep reading to find out!

Christmas festivities in Spain

The first key date in the Spanish Christmas calendar is December 22. On this day the national Christmas lottery is celebrated, and some lucky people win ¨El Gordo¨ or the jackpot. Many families and groups of friends gather every year to watch the widely known raffle. The next important date is Nochebuena or Christmas Eve, December 24. Spanish families usually have a big, abundant dinner together. On December 25, Christmas, families gather for lunch, usually to eat the leftovers of the night before. Then, there is a break until December 31 or Nochevieja. On this day, families have dinner together and, right before January 1, at 12 o´clock, 12 grapes will be eaten as a sign of luck for the next year. After eating the grapes, Spanish people party for the whole night, and eat some churros for breakfast. January 1st is Año Nuevo, all shops are closed and usually, people take some rest from the night before. The last essential date for the Spanish Christmas calendar is January 6, when the Three Wise Men tradition is celebrated. On this day, Roscón de Reyes, a traditional pastry, is eaten across Spain.

Christmas festivities in Mexico

Mexican people start their Christmas festivities earlier than the Spanish, concretely on December 16. This day marks the start of the 9 posadas, which serve as a countdown to Christmas. The posadas symbolize Mary and Joseph searching for a place to stay, and being rejected every time for 9 days. On the ninth day, Mary and Joseph were finally welcomed into a house, and Mexican people pray for this and take turns hosting posada parties, until Christmas Eve. After the last party, there is an abundant feast to celebrate Christmas before attending Midnight Mass. More towards the North, Santa Claus is celebrated, unlike in the South, where people tend to be more conservative and stick to the older tradition to give gifts at Epiphany. Throughout Mexico, Epiphany is a festive day which involves a traditional pastry called Rosca de Reyes (similar to the Spanish Roscón de Reyes). Christmas trees are more seen in the North, accompanied by nativity scenes. Nativity plays, called Pastorelas, are also very popular in Mexico and usually have a funny tone. The festive season closes officially at Candlemas on February 2.

Christmas festivities in Venezuela

December 4, Santa Bárbara, marks the beginning of Christmas festivities in Venezuela. Churches start running special services from around December 16 and, in Caracas, people often attend morning church services on roller skates. This tradition is so ingrained that roads are closed to adapt to it. On December 21, more parties take place to celebrate the shortest day of the year, and they culminate on Christmas Eve. There are increasingly more Christmas trees in Venezuela, mainly artificial, but the nativity scene keeps being the main Christmas decoration. Unlike in many Spanish-speaking countries, Christmas Eve in Venezuela is the day for gifts. They are brought to children either by Saint Nicholas or by Baby Jesus. There is also a special feast on this day, which is often based around meat, particularly pork, rather than turkey or other poultry. The day culminates with Midnight Mass. After Christmas Day, the festivities become quieter until they end with a final celebration on Epiphany.

Christmas festivities in Argentina

In Argentina, the weather is warm during Christmas. Preparations start in late November / early December. Many people in Argentina are Catholic and they also celebrate Advent. Christmas Trees are rather popular in Argentina and are often decorated by December 8 (the Immaculate Conception feast – the day when Catholics celebrate Mary´s conception). The Nativity scene or ‘pesebre’ is a quite common Christmas decoration in Argentina. The pesebre is set up near the Christmas tree. The main Christmas festivities take place on Christmas Eve, when many Catholics attend a church service in the late afternoon. With regards to the main Christmas meal, eaten during Christmas Eve evening, it usually takes place at 10 or 11 PM, and dishes can include roasted turkey, roasted pork, or goat, ‘vitel toné’ (slices of veal served with a creamy anchovy and tuna sauce), stuffed tomatoes, salads, different sandwiches like ‘pan de atún’. Dessert can be Christmas bread and puddings like ‘Pan Dulce’ and Panettone. The day to give gifts depends on the family. It can be Santa Claus or Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve, or the Three Wise Men on Epiphany Day, January 6.

Are you surprised about any of these Christmas festivities in these 4 countries? Let us know in the comments! Also, if you would like to know about Christmas traditions in other Spanish-speaking countries, let us know and we will find out for you!

Thank you for your time reading! How do you celebrate Christmas in your own country? Let us know! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn for more daily Spanish-related content. Also, if you are interested to join a Spanish course at Academia El Sur, click here to find our latest course offer. You can always contact us by email at megusta@academiaelsur.nl, or by phone at +31644010696.

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