“So, Christmas in Latin America is celebrated on December 24th. In the evening is when we celebrate baby Jesus’ birth. So we wake up in the morning and we say “Feliz Navidad” or “Happy Christmas,” and we have usually a large party of my family, it’s about 200 of us, and then at night we sing and we welcome baby Jesus into our home. And then Santa comes on a horse with a big basket with all the presents for all my cousins and I, and what we do is Santa’s helpers, which is my brother and I, we assist Santa Claus, or “Papa Noel” in Spanish, and we give out all the presents to all of my baby cousins… and me as well. Also on December 24th, we have a feast. This feast involves, potatoes, a turkey, a pork leg, lots of desserts like dulce de leche, cranberry sauce… it’s kind of like the traditional Thanksgiving. And then also right before we have steaks, little bits of chorizo, and ribs… and drinks are flowing.”
Informant is a first year acting student at the University of Southern California. She was born in Medellin, Colombia, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and at age 12 she moved to Paris and later Hong Kong. She spends her winter and summer vacations with her family in Colombia.
I asked the informant how she celebrates Christmas, and this was her response.
While most typical Christmas celebrations happen on December 25th, the informant shared that her family’s biggest celebration happens on Christmas Eve. Her celebrations are centered around her family coming together and celebrating the birth of Jesus, and some of the traditions draw from other holidays, like Thanksgiving, as well. There are still the commercial aspects of Santa bringing presents and the family coming together to share a big meal, but aspects like Santa riding a horse and her family eating dulce de leche show the mix of her Colombian roots. While presents are a part of the experience, it is interesting to see that most of the excitement occurs leading up to the gift-giving, and afterwards there is not much of a celebration.