Christmas Festivities, Tradition and Tinsel in South America

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If you were thinking of doing something different for Christmas this year, why not head to South America for the festive period? The continent is steeped in tradition and celebrations are everywhere to be found, from an elaborate Christmas Eve parade in Cuenca to the twinkling Christmas lights of Buenos Aires. Read on to find out more about how you can enjoy an unforgettable Christmas in South America.

Buenos Aires Shines at Christmas

Buenos Aires has a reputation for good times, a party atmosphere and plenty of late nights, and while this is certainly true for the festive period – Argentina’s capital takes on a distinctly family-orientated twist during this time of year, particularly on Christmas Eve. While much of Argentina is known for its light shows, fireworks, music and displays throughout December, it is on the evening of the 24th where the peak of this traditional revelry takes place. As such, tango shows are full, the kids stay up late and the city heaves under an expectation of the midnight coming of Christmas, and subsequent – not to be missed – fanfare! Don’t be surprised that come the 25th, streets are largely deserted, restaurants closed and many have left Buenos Aires to visit family elsewhere, so be sure to book a table, reserve a ticket for the show and make the most of Christmas Eve – for a rousing yule tide party – porteño style!

The Pase del Niño Viajero Parade, Cuenca, Ecuador

For wide-eyed visitors, it’s a fascinating insight into local culture at a special time of year, and for residents of Cuenca it’s an essential part of their history and heritage, though whichever camp you fall into – this is a festival not to be missed. The parade – known as the ‘Passing of the Child’ – is traditionally held on the 24th December and focuses on the young Jesus Christ, as effigies and recreated scenes from the bible pass through the town’s main streets, accompanied by music and kaleidoscopic colourful outfits. This altogether catholic affair is then coupled with aspects of indigenous culture, from certain clothing and jewellery to the food being served on street stalls, simultaneously celebrating both the native and Spanish heritage of modern-day Ecuador. With tens of thousands of participants and up to 200,000 lining the pavement, the Pase del Niño Viajero Parade is a charming cultural spectacle for anyone visiting the country around Christmas time.

Back to basics in Colombia

Though Colombia has a reputation for being one of Latin America’s more dramatic, fast-paced countries, a place of evolving cities, party spirit and outdoor adventures, when it comes to Christmas – there are several deeply cherished traditions which serve to bring everyone back down to earth. On the 7th December, the beginning of festivities are marked with Dia de las Velitas, a day of simple gestures such as the lighting of candles and modest decorations to signify the Virgin Mary’s immaculate conception, which itself is fully honoured the following day in similar fashion. Then there are the Novena prayers, which are repeated for 9 straight days from the 16th December, often including family gatherings, music and carols, while towns and homes are brightly decorated with typically festive fairy lights and illuminations throughout. Finally, on Christmas Eve, time is made for a lavish meal before midnight mass and the welcoming of the day, courtesy of fireworks and celebrations which lead into restfulness on the 25th. For anyone seeking something a little more raucous however, do not fear, as in addition to the very family-orientated and respectful side of the Colombian festive seasons, there are, of course, plenty of nightspots, shows and bars to be enjoyed across the country!

Rio de Janeiro – a Christmas on the Beach

Think giant Father Christmas sculptures made of sand, millions of fairy lights hanging from every inch of every rooftop or balcony in the neighbourhood, and spectacularly-decorated trees lining the streets and squares including one 85m tall floating in Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas; this is the Rio de Janeiro festive parade! As with European and US tradition, it’s a time of gifts, outfits and family fun, and as with many Latin American neighbours the traditional climax of events is midnight on Christmas Eve, however – being Rio – things are cranked up a notch! So, when it comes to the party spirit, the extravagant light shows and typically Brazilian atmosphere, Rio is something special and the whole city seems to get in on the atmosphere, with shopping bonanzas, markets, firework displays and shows aplenty. Then, having survived an evening of caipirinhas and late-night samba, what better way to ease weary heads than with a day on the beach – mixing with the locals every step of the way!


Want to experience it for yourself? Start planning your Christmas in South America with our trip-building tool, or give our experts a call on 1 866 978 7398 (US/Canada) or 080 8189 0438 (UK).

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