We might not be Chilean, but we have been living here for a month, so we figured we take part in as much of the Chilean Christmas culture that we could! Introducing our final installment of 12 Countries in 12 Days of Christmas: Chile!
What is a typical Christmas in Chile like?
Not unlike many of the other countries we visited during this series, a Chilean Christmas occurs during the summer. Students are out of school on summer break, the weather is warm, and many turn to family activities in the outdoors. While we’ve been here in Chile, we have enjoyed the warm weather days by going to the beach, taking walks along the coast, and sight-seeing through the city among other things. This has been our first Christmas in such warm weather, and though it has been different compared to our past cold and snowy Christmases, it has been wonderful to take advantage of the heat!
Homes are decorated with trees and lights, but most importantly with the nativity scene. There may be many different nativities displayed in one’s home. In the days leading up to Christmas, many Catholics participate in what is called the nine-day novena—a series of prayers said daily from Dec 16-24 seen as helping those who recite them to receive Christ into their hearts. These prayers can be said in private or as a congregation. The biggest day in the cathedrals is Christmas Eve as all gather for a special Christmas mass. We attended a beautiful service at the cathedral in downtown Valparaiso and it was packed! Beautiful songs were sung and at the end we were able to view the large, decorated nativity that they had on display.
After Christmas Eve mass, families and friends gather to celebrate with a holiday dinner which is then followed by opening gifts brought by Viejito Pascuero, or Old Man Christmas. The festivities usually last late into the night as the children play with their new toys and the adults spend time together. After we attended mass, we enjoyed a stroll through town as the night grew dark and the Christmas lights came on. Carter fell asleep on the way home, so we put him to bed and watched a Christmas movie to end the night.
On Christmas day, all hope to sleep in and enjoy their new gifts and the warm weather later in the day. Many families will go to the beach, or biking, or camping. After we opened our gifts and ate breakfast, we went for a nice long walk along the coast. We were out and about around noon and we hardly saw anyone, but we noticed around 3pm that the beach next to our apartment was starting to get very busy!
What foods/meals are a part of the holiday season?
A traditional holiday dinner in Chile consists of different meats (roasted turkey, chicken, or other special meat), with a variety of sides. The things that are specific to Christmas are pan de pascua, a fruit cake, and a drink called cola de mono, or monkey’s tail. Cola de mono is made of coffee, alcohol, cinnamon, and sugar and is also a favorite drink for New Years. We almost bought pan de pascua, but we decided that instead of getting something we’d most likely not like (sorry but we’re not fruit cake fans!) we’d buy a whole bunch of butter and make some delicious desserts we knew we did like.
We hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and continue to enjoy the holidays as we bring in the new year! We’d also love to give a big “Thank You!” to all of our dear friends who helped contribute to this 12 Countries in 12 Days of Christmas! We’ve loved learning new things about the different cultures we have been (and will get to be) a part of and we hope you did too.