Christmas is a great time for celebration, eating and partying with family, friends and neighbours. In Venezuela there are a variety of unique and fascinating traditions observed every time Christmas comes around.
What do Venezuelans do in the lead up to Christmas? What are some of the Venezuelan Christmas culinary traditions? What kinds of songs do Venezuelans listen to during Christmas time? These are the kind of questions that you might have if you are interested in Venezuelan Christmas traditions. Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place!
In this blog, we’ll explore everything you need to know about Venezuelan Christmas Traditions, including:
Venezuelan Christmas Traditions
Christmas is a time of great joy and celebration in Venezuela. According to the most recent census, 98% of the population of Venezuela are Catholic. Christmas has become quite commercialised in recent years. But the religious foundation of Christmas is still strongly observed in Venezuela. Throughout the country many spend the Christmas period visiting church, praying and spending time with family.
Christmas in Venezuela is a time for cultural and religious celebration. There are a variety of Christmas traditions to do with the church, decorations, music and food that are worth highlighting.
- Miso de Gallo (Rooster’s Mass) and Misa de Aguinaldo
Miso de Gallo is the Midnight Mass observed in Spain and many former Spanish Colonies like Venezuela on Christmas Eve. It is the central religious celebration at Christmas-time for the Venezuelan people, that takes place during a series of Masses called Misa de Aguinaldo. The name for this traditional celebration is derived from the Spanish word for “Christmas box.”
A tradition unique to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, is that people roller skate to the early morning Misa de Aguinaldo church services from the 16th to 24th December. The roads are closed to cars and the people of Venezuela are free to skate with their families and friends and join in the national festive spirit .
- Christmas Decorations
Nativity scenes, Christmas trees and Christmas lights are the main decorations you’ll see filling Venezuelan houses in December. The Nativity scenes are known as nacimientos. They are the perfect opportunity for families to get creative and design their only depictions of the Holy Family, the stable and the landscape of Bethlehem.
The Christmas trees in most Venezuelan homes are usually artificial because fir and pine trees are not easy to get in Venezuela. Christmas lights and candles commonly start appearing in early December and stay up throughout the month of December.
- Christmas Music
Gaita, or Gaita Zuilana, is a genre of music that is traditionally listened to during Christmas in Venezuela. Gaita Zuilana specifically is a regional genre from the state of Zulia in Venezuela that involves rhyming vocals supported by four-string guitars and maracas.
Christmas carols, known as aguinaldos, are also a traditional feature of a Venezuelan Christmas. As in many other countries around the world, revellers will go door-to-door singing carols and bringing the joy of Christmas to others in their neighbourhood. Other than gaita and carols, Venezuelans also listen and dance to salsa and merengue throughout the holiday period.
Mass, decorations and music are just a few of the Venezuelan Christmas traditions that are practised and observed throughout homes in Venezuela. There are also a number of gift giving traditions in Venezuela that are tied to traditional Spanish-catholic celebrations like Three Kings Day.
Venezuelan Christmas Food
One of the best things about Christmas is the food. This is especially true in Venezuela, where food and family meals play such an important role within the culture. Some of the traditional Christmas dishes in Venezuela include:
One of the most classic Venezuelan Christmas foods is Hallacas - a mix of chicken, beef, pork, raisins, olives and capers wrapped in plantain and maize leaves that are tied up with string into a neat parcel. Hallacas is boiled and then steamed until it is formed into a delicious mixture of meat, herbs and spices.
Most Venezuelan Christmas tables will be filled with different varieties of Hallacas. They are a favourite of many Venezuelan children and a mainstay of Venezuelan Christmas.
- Pan de Jamón
If a table filled with Hallacas isn’t enough, you can also enjoy Pan de Jamón - a type of bread formed from puff pastry and stuffed full of ham, bacon, raisins and olives. It is a great Christmas snack shaped like a Swiss roll that is a delightful addition to your traditional Christmas meal.
- Ponche crema
Ponche crema is a cream-based holiday drink that is a regular feature of Venezuela meals. At Christmas time you’re likely to find plenty of Ponche crema in the homes of Venezuelans around the country. It is the ideal relaxing Christmas cocktail to accompany all the Pan de Jamón, wonderful Christmas music and dancing.
- Dulce de cochinito
Finishing the Christmas meal with some Dulce de cochinito is the way many Venezuelans choose to end their Christmas feasting. This slow-cooked brown sugar and green papaya treat is a traditional Venezuelan dessert that is often eaten during Christmas celebrations.
You are likely to find these foods and many more like them at any Venezuealn Christmas celebration. Food forms an important part of Venezuelan Christmas traditions and, after the Mass service, the family meal is often the most important part of Christmas Eve.
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