Five Unique Navidad Traditions from Latin America
Credit: Nuestro Stories
It’s beginning to look a lot like Navidad around the world, and when it comes to nuestro gente, there are a variety of unique ways that we choose to celebrate the season – and we love them all. From the special food to the seasonal songs, and the traditions carried from generation to generation, it’s getting festive.
As we countdown the days before Navidad, we wanted to take a deeper look at some of the beautiful traditions that surround this time of year throughout Latino culture.
How Navidad is celebrated
A time-honored tradition celebrated through quite a few countries, posadas tend to be family-driven or community-driven processions intended to re-create the birth of Jesus. Beginning with Maria y Jose as they seek a place to sleep on Christmas Eve. Along the procession, a variety of preordained houses are selected or volunteered as places where the procession, and the holy family, will find shelter.
As representations of la familia santa, pictures of the holy family are carried by the people in the procession. When they find a home that is considered shelter, they enter the home to sing carols and pray. Those in the procession are then fed and given drinks before the next stop on their journey. Musicians typically accompany the procession.
Read more: Latino Jews Give Hanukkah a Special Flavor
La Misa del Gallo
While there are quite a few traditions only followed in certain countries, cities, or towns, there is one that is nearly universal in Latino culture – no matter what generation you come from, or where your beliefs currently lie – and that is La Misa del Gallo, or Christmas Mass (although it’s translated to Mass of the Rooster). Whether you stay up all night to ensure you make it for the extremely early mass, or you get up with the gallos, morning mass is certainly a fairly universal component.
This specific tradition happens all over Venezuela. It’s such a fun tradition that we couldn’t help but include it! Las Patinatas is a mass procession of skaters – yes, skaters – that ride together to Christmas service. The tradition has become one of the most popular ones in the city for the holiday, and the city closes down a majority of the busy streets in order to allow for easy travel.
La comida, específicamente los Tamales.
We love to cook for each other. It’s a way we show each other we care. It’s a way we are able to express our joy and gratitude, and love for each other in a way that mere words wouldn’t be able to translate. When it comes to the holidays, we spare no effort. From Mexico to Costa Rica, Guatemala to Nicaragua, and beyond, tamales are one of the most favored and most common foods cooked during Navidad. It’s not just the final result, but the coming together to prepare the tamales. Savory, sweet, a mixture of the two, it doesn’t matter, so long as there are tamales on our plate.
In the same way that posada is important to honor the birth of Jesus, the presentation of los nacimientos, or nativity scenes, is another time-honored tradition in Latin culture. Unlike many countries, which focus on their own version of Santa Claus, Latinos tend to focus their traditions around the Nacimiento de el Rey, Jesus Cristo. In fact, in Mexico, there is no Santa Claus. The gifts are delivered by Los Reyes Mago, the three wise men.
Whether you love Navidad for the food, the festivities, the skating (I’m jealous Caracas, not going to lie), or the time with family – we definitely know how to celebrate.
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By Liv Styler
Olivia Monahan Chicana journalist, editor, educator, and organizer in Sacramento whose sole focus is to shed light on stories on our most impacted and marginalized communities, but even more importantly, for those stories to humanize those normally left out. She is an Ida B Wells Investigative Journalism Fellow 2022 Finalist, a member of the Parenting Journalists Society, and has bylines in The Courier, The Sacramento Bee, The Americano, Submerge Magazine among others.