Spanish vs. Hispanic Christmas Traditions

05 Dec 2023 - Category: Blog /
Spanish Latin Xmas

Are you excited for Christmas? Wherever you are in the world the end of the year will probably be very busy with festive celebrations. For many countries around the world, Christmas is the biggest and most important festive and religious celebration.

For Spanish-speaking countries, Christmas is especially important because, as in most countries that have been influenced by Spain, Christianity is the dominant religion. But Christmas traditions differ from country to country. And although Spanish is spoken in Peru, Mexico, and Colombia they all celebrate Christmas with different traditions.

In this post, we’re going to be exploring how Spanish and Hispanic Christmas traditions compare by looking at the Christmas customs of several countries, including:

  • Spain
  • Mexico
  • Venezuela
  • Peru
  • Colombia
  • Argentina

Spanish Christmas Traditions

If you want to celebrate in style, Spain is one of the most exciting countries to visit around Christmas time. Spain has a long and rich cultural history tied to Christmas celebrations, traditions, and customs. They are a deeply religious country, with over 60% of Spain identifying as Roman Catholic and celebrating Christmas in several meaningful ways.

Here are three of the most common Spanish Christmas Traditions:

  1. “El Gordo” Christmas Lottery. The Christmas celebrations begin on the 22nd of December with Spain’s National Christmas Lottery which has been held every year since 1812. The winning numbers, which are contested for by millions, are sung by children in a televised performance.
  2. Portal de Beléns. These Stable of Bethlehem nativity scenes can be found across Spain at Christmas time. The scenes celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ are featured in houses, markets, farms, and churches at Christmas time.
  3. The Three Kings. In Spain, Christmas has nothing to do with Santa Claus. Instead, it is the Three Kings or the Three Wise Men (Reyes Magos - Melchior, Baltazar, and Gaspar) who bring the presents to well-behaved children at Christmas time. On the night of January 5th, you’ll likely see massive Three Kings parades through towns and cities as families and friends get together to mark the occasion.

Hispanic Christmas Traditions

There are several Christmas traditions common across the various Hispanic countries but there are also several traditions unique to certain nations.

Let’s take a look at some Hispanic Christmas traditions:

  • Mexico

Christmas in Mexico is wonderful and is observed from December 12th to January 6th. Like Spain, the arrival of the Three Wise Men plays a central role in Christmas celebrations. However, unlike Spain, Mexicans kick off their Christmas seasons celebrating the Mexican patron Saint at the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

From December 12th to the 24th, Mexicans take part in a series of parties and a procession called Las Posadas. In traditional versions of these celebrations, children play the roles of Mary and Joseph in the nativity as the rest of the procession carry candles and lanterns.

  • Venezuela

Christmas celebrations in Venezuela get underway with a bang. Fireworks fill the sky at the end of December and the beginning of January. Traditionally, people go to Midnight Mass (Misas de Aguinaldo) in the days before Christmas. They also enjoy traditional Christmas foods such as Hallacas which is a mixture of pork, beef, chicken, raisins, capers, and olives that are wrapped in plantain leaves and tied up with string.

Interestingly, in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, there is a tradition of people roller skating to church services in the morning between the 16th of December and the 24th of December. The roads are closed to traffic and the people are free to skate and enjoy the Christmas spirit.

  • Peru

Peru is another largely Christian nation, with around 74% of the population identifying as Christian. As a result, many of the religious Christmas events celebrated in Spain and countries across South America are also celebrated in Peru.

In the Peruvian nativity scenes, called pesebre or nacimientos, you will likely see native Peruvian animals like alpacas and llamas featured alongside Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus.

The main celebrations take place on Christmas Eve which is called Noche Buena. People across the country will go to a special church service called Misa de Gallo (Rooster Mass) which starts at 10 pm. After the service, the family and friends will gather together to enjoy the main Christmas meal (cena de Navidad). The traditional Peruvian dessert after a meal is called panetón.

  • Colombia

In Colombia Christmas celebrations start on the 7th of December, a day known as Día de las Velitas or Day of the Little Candles. As you can imagine streets, houses, and buildings are decorated with lanterns and candles to signal the beginning of the festive season.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated around the world but is particularly important to the people of Colombia. Similarly, from December 16th until Christmas family and friends come together to pray in gatherings known as novenas or Novena de Aguinaldos (Christmas Novena).

As in Peru, the main Christmas meal takes place on Christmas Eve. In Colombia, the meal is called Cena de Navidad and will often feature dishes such as Lechona, Ajiaco Bogotano, Buñuelos, Hojuelas, and Arepas. Like in Spain, food is an integral part of the Christmas celebrations and it serves as a fantastic opportunity for family and friends to come together to share stories around the dinner table.

Read more: What are the best Colombian Christmas Dishes?

  • Argentina

Like in the other Hispanic countries mentioned above, at Christmas time the weather is warm and the streets are full of Catholic celebrations. Unlike those other countries, Christmas Trees are a popular feature in houses and public places. Christmas Trees are traditionally decorated by the 8th of December.

On Christmas Eve, after they have attended mass and eaten their meal, the people of Argentina will release globos, little paper decorations with a light inside that float away into the sky and mark the Christmas occasion.

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