Preparing the Christmas tree, decorating houses with special lights, and expecting a Santa Claus and interchangeable gifts are customs inherited from Western culture that Latin America shares, but each region has made this celebration its own.
The celebration of Christmas has varied through the centuries since colonization. The first traditions brought from Spain to the New World were rigid, but later each region was dressed with its own local flavor. However, religious devotions, songs, prayers in honor of the Holy Family continued to be celebrated the miracle.
In spite of the influence of the United States through the television that arrives to Latin America, most of the children still hope excitedly that the Magi bring them the gift they requested. Possibly Santa Claus receives little correspondence from Spain and America south of the Rio Grande.
Here are some highlights of the celebrations in some Latin American countries:
The celebrations of the birth of Jesus in Mexico have a very festive color. Joy overflowing and deep religious faith being proganists. They are famous for their “Posadas”, which begin nine days before Christmas and represent the pilgrimage of Joseph and Mary looking for an inn where she can give birth to her son.
These are more or less large groups, in candlelit processions preceded by children carrying a birch of clay. They can visit one or more homes and always sing a few verses of Joseph asking for an inn. Those of the house respond that there is not and, after the "conversation" sung between the "pilgrims" and the "innkeepers", finally open the door and the tamales received, the chocolate atole (hot drink made from corn flour And chocolate flavor) and other goodies. Children always receive candies and gifts previously placed in a piñata.
As they are different groups of different homes, the streets resonate with the contagious joy of a carnival revelry.
On Christmas day a solemn Mass is celebrated and the celebrations continue until the Epiphany, when the three Magi spend in the silence of the night leaving gifts for the children.
With more than 120 million inhabitants, Mexico is the country with the largest number of Spanish-speaking Catholics in the world.
Christmas in the countries of Central America is quite similar to Mexico, with very slight differences. The Guatemalan Lucía Molina, an office worker, says that in her country the festivities begin on December 12, the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patroness of Mexico and the Americas. As most of the population is of Maya, or mestizo (Mayan-Spanish) origin, many children see themselves as indigenous and play with chopsticks and characteristic drum made of turtle shell, while they all eat cakes and drink atole. Throughout the season the Catholic Church has a preponderant place, just like births and biblical accounts.
In El Salvador, as in Mexico, there are the pastorelas, medieval dramas that were brought from Europe by the Spaniards during the conquest. Although they retain the traditional message, their language has been modified over the years. They are presented in public places, as in churches. Its themes are the birth of Jesus and the pilgrimage of the shepherds to Bethlehem.
Rosenda Majano, who was born and lived in the countryside in El Salvador until she emigrated to the United States, says that since the months before Christmas Eve, families begin to gain weight, including a turkey and other Creole hens. Also, before that day, people gather all the trash from their home, including useless furniture and do all that great fires in the courtyards.
The inns are repeated here and those who receive offer tamales of flour with chicken or pork. Rockets explode everywhere.
Catholics go to the Mass of the Rooster (or to the next day, Christmas). For Christmas Eve dinner, turkeys (tortillas with spices, tomatoes and beef or chicken) are served and, according to her, "those who can" also serve salads.
In San José de Costa Rica, on Christmas day, the city is illuminated in a very special way, which is added Bengal lights, rockets, fireworks. They open amusement parks with slides, carousels, wheels of fortune. For adults there are rules, target shots and all sorts of games of chance. There are tame bullfights with amateur bullfighters, football matches and cycling races.
In Panama competitions are organized to reward the efforts of citizens in the Christmas ornament of their streets and neighborhoods, and births are born in the streets.
In Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba (with the exception of the latter in a period of several decades), Christmas Eve has very small differences: in all three there is Misa de Gallo and, afterwards, dinner with roasted pork, chicken fricassee or Guinea fowl, congrí (rice with black beans), fried green bananas, salad, Spanish nougat and homemade sweets, in Cuba; More or less the same thing in Puerto Rico but the rice is with pigeons and the delicious cakes (with plantain green ground and meat, wrapped in banana leaves).
Christmas was suspended in Cuba from the early 1960s and officially removed from the calendar after 1970. Subsequently, in 1997, in preparation for the visit of Pope John Paul II, the government allowed a small religious opening.
"Religious people never stopped celebrating, sometimes in a hidden way, Christmas. Now the celebration is unstoppable. Churches are full and those who have dollars can buy small trees and groceries," said Maria Lopez, during a trip to Visit his mother in Havana.
In towns of the Department of the Cauca in Colombia exists a custom of a very old origin. Troubadours called chirimias roam the streets singing carols that are accompanied by flute music. When they finish their songs, the listeners reward them with some coins and the troubadours continue their journey towards another zone.
In Venezuela, December 25 is a day to strengthen family and friendly ties; They visit each other. In these two countries the gifts are brought to the little ones by the Child God.
In Sicuani, Peru, the feast of the Three Wise Men has departed from religious meaning. Kings representing three cultures compete in horse races. If the Spanish white king wins, it is a sign of poverty and bad harvests. If the victory is of the black king, the people will suffer terrible epidemics. Only the victory of the Indian king assured them happiness and abundance.
In the big cities of Argentina and Brazil, they have imported the snowy Christmas tree and the mistletoe, which, together with the Birth, adorn cities, shops and homes.