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Christmas celebrations across the Americas

by Breonnah Colón - Editor-in-Chief
Wed, Dec 5th 2018 01:00 pm
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Stereotypically, Hispanics and Latinx people tend to be categorized as exceptionally sexy and having a high knack for partying. In the time of “building a wall,” there are many living in the United States who also look forward to Cinco de Mayo with the anticipation of a child waiting for Christmas, all for the sake of eating tacos and having margaritas with sombreros on their heads as a fashion statement.

Living in a primarily Christian country, it comes as no surprise Christmas is a holiday celebrated by most people. With events like the Rockefeller Center’s annual tree lighting, Macy’s light show and Christmas festivals which crop up across the country, the holiday has become a national celebration as well as a religious practice. Across our beloved borders, Christmas is also celebrated widely. Countries like Argentina, Belize and Colombia, among many others have interesting and unique traditional practices. In Argentina, there is a bit of a difference in language used to celebrate the holiday. For example, rather than “Christmas” Argentinians refer to the day as “La Navidad” and “Santa Claus” is called “Papa Noels.” 

Another difference is the fact that most Argentinians are Roman Catholic, therefore their religious practices differ slightly. A late mass takes place on Christmas Eve, followed by a late dinner typically held out doors. Christmas is marked with fireworks, according to vipjourneys.com. Belize has traditions very similar to those practiced in the United States, with gifts and cards shared between friends and family.

 However, one distinct tradition lays in the lead up to Christmas itself. Belizeans spend their time preparing for the holiday by cleaning their homes and visiting family, where they have a practice very similar to Islamic Eid: gifting family members with cards full of money and gifts. Rumpopo, Belizean eggnog is also common at this time of year. In celebration of Christmas, the country holds many festivals and parades, all full with dancing locals and visitors alike.

In Colombia, Christmas is celebrated for an entire month with festivities beginning in early December and lasting until New Year’s day. In this country, religious practices play a strong role in the festivities and many celebrations are faith-based. 

While many in the U.S. begin raising Christmas trees directly following Thanksgiving, Colombians don’t raise their trees until December 16, when the Novena begins. According to praymorenovenas.com, a novena is nine consecutive days of prayer and meditation during which God may be asked for special requests. Novenas are also used as a time to request certain saints to pray for the faithful.

One important factor to remember is Christmas takes place in the summer for these countries, so rather than snow and blizzards, Latin Americans celebrate these holidays with warmth and sunshine. The weather plays a role in how festivals take place and how people interact with one another. 

Another interesting aspect of the Christmas season is Three Kings Day or El Dia de los Tres Reyes. Celebrated by many different countries, this holiday honors the three kings who visited baby Jesus when he was born and brought him gifts. Those who celebrate Three Kings Day typically don’t celebrate Christmas and as a result children don’t receive gifts on December 25, but rather January 6. 

According to elboricua.com, during la víspera de los Reyes, the eve before Three Kings Day, children in Puerto Rico cut grass and place it in a box under their beds. This is supposed to be for the camels the kings ride when visiting. Much like with a visiting Santa, children must behave well throughout the year and must also be asleep to receive gifts. The next day, children will awaken to brand new toys and other gifts. It is very easy to become so invested in the tradition of a home country that other peoples’ practices are overlooked or even ridiculed.

However, learning about and understanding the values and beliefs of different traditions can only help to increase love and acceptance of different people. The holidays are just another example of how much we have to lean and gain from taking time to acknowledge those who celebrate similar events, just in the other America.

 

stylus@brockport.edu | @b_co___