Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Christmas Customs in South America



On December 16th, Venezuelans bring out their nativities, the “pesebres.” There are nine carol services this night, and people usually will go to one of them. Then people often set off firecrackers, ring bells and call worshipers to church before dawn. Families will then go to mass, then go home and eat a huge dinner.

Before January 6th, children often leave straw beside their beds. When they wake up that day, the straw is gone, replaced by gifts.


Brazilians call Father Christmas “Papai Noel.” Their Christmas is pretty similar to the American and British traditions. People who can afford to have huge Christmas dinners will cook special feasts, consisting of chicken, turkey, rice, pork, salad, fresh fruits and dried fruits. Brazilians like to drink beer with Christmas dinner. Poorer families usually just have chicken and rice for Christmas dinner.


Families go to church together, and then go home to eat and toast. The Argentinian Christmas dinner typically consists of pork and turkey dishes. Then the second course consists of pastries, cider, beer and juice. Then the adults stay home and dance, while the younger people go out to watch fireworks. They then all gather to open presents under the Christmas tree, and then go to sleep. They celebrate the birth of Jesus on the 24th of December.



In Chile, those who are Catholic practice the novena, which is nine days of fasting and prayer prior to Christmas day. They call Father Christmas “Viejo Pascuero.” This man crawls through windows, rather than chimneys, since Chilean chimneys are small. Chileans eat Christmas Eve dinner very late, generally after Midnight Mass. This dinner consists of turkey, salads, corn, onions, olives, seafood and local wine. Chile is proud of its fine wines. Sometimes they have a traditional soup with chicken and potatoes. The traditional Christmas dessert consists of Pan de Pascua, which is a sweet bread filled with candies and fruit, along with fruit, cookies and other pastries.



On Christmas Day, people who live in the mountains of Ecuador dress in colorful, nice clothing and ride llamas down to the ranches of their employers. The ranch will have the nativity scene, and guests often lay down fresh produce in front of Baby Jesus. Children go up to the Baby Jesus and thank him for food. People will then hold a huge outdoor fiesta, with singing, dancing and gift giving. Christmas dinner will then take place, which is traditionally roast lamb, baked potatoes, and brown sugar bread. In urban areas, people often have turkey for Christmas dinner.


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