Photo: Mario Carvajal
A holiday isn’t really a holiday in Colombia without special food, and the Christmas/New Year’s season is no exception. Bakeries and restaurants seem to pull out all the stops when the end of the year rolls around, offering seasonal specialty plates, brightly-colored pastries and cookies and all manner of festive cocktails. The Christmas season revolves heavily around family life, offering endless opportunities for cooking and feeding large groups of people, and residents have risen to the challenge with some truly delicious creations. Much of the holiday food will be familiar to other celebrating Christmas and the December holidays around the world: turkey, pork, rice and potatoes are staples of many Christmas Eve meals across the country. However, there are also a handful of plates that are unique to Colombia and the Andean region. For most Colombians, a Christmas without these dishes wouldn’t taste like Christmas at all.
Photo: Ilan Greenfield
In many countries, the northern hemisphere version of Christmas has virtually erased the more traditional ways of celebrating the original holiday. Santa Claus has certainly taken the world by storm.
Ecuador has also fallen prey to the icons of globalized ‘X-mas’ – reindeers, elves, Grinches and all (which, of course, hardly make sense in a tropical, sunny, Andean, season-less country), including the insanity that prevails at all neighborhood malls. On the flip side, however, one can still experience the Passing of the Child parade on December 24, a ritual that dates back to colonial times.
Photo: I.D. R.J.
Like any other event with the potential to involve sparkly objects, the holiday season (and Christmas in particular) is serious business in Colombia. People start putting up their decorations in mid-October, even before stores have sold out of Halloween costumes. In fact, some houses and even businesses across the country simply leave the lights up all year, dimming them during the off-season but leaving them ready at a moment’s notice to illuminate for the holidays. Though Santa Claus is less of a familiar face here than in some other countries, there are plenty of other holiday traditions that keep December warm, cozy and full of good cheer:
Photo: City of Quito
If there is one thing to understand about Quito, it is that this city is historically a deeply religious one. From its colonial past to the present day, celebrations and traditions this time of year are often derived from Christianity’s most cherished story – the birth of Christ.
During December the Christmas story is not only told through the popular tradition of the Novena–nine days of praying and celebrating the meaning of Christmas, often in the homes of family and friends–but the story plays out visually in the mounting of Nativity scenes large and small, traditional and contemporary, and offers a ubiquitous spectacle of a timeless tradition.
Photo: Beatrice Murch
Holiday season in Argentina officially begins with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception—or Inmaculada Concepción de María—a national holiday that’s celebrated each year on December 8.
Most Argentines have the day off of work and spend it with family and friends, decorating Christmas trees and adorning their homes and apartments with holiday lights and red, white, and green wreaths.
Photo: Quito Tourism Office
Aside from the multiple displays of great nativity scenes throughout the city, Quito is host to a number of activities that can be enjoyed by visitors and residents alike. Here are some events you may wish to be a part of:
Christmas Tours aboard the Quito Tour Bus
Everyday at 9:00 a.m.
- 2 hour tour through Quito aboard the double-decker tour bus
- Stop in the Plaza Grande to observe the Passing of the Child ritual
- Christmas ballet show
- Warm drink and Christmas candy bag included
- $16 for adults / $12 for everyone else
Photo: Enrique Castro-Mendívil
Even though the majority of Peruvians are Catholic, the Andean culture is still very present in people’s beliefs. This results in a blending of cultural and religious mythology that makes the culture very rich in traditions and holidays.
Cuzco celebrates Christmas with Santuranticuy – one of the biggest arts and crafts fairs in Peru. Preparations for this fair start six months before Chirstmas. Hundreds of artisans gather in and around the main square with traditional crafts creating a very picturesque atmosphere. Some camp out the night before to guarantee a good spot to sell their wares.