American vs. Peruvian Christmas Tradition: A Comparison

American vs. Peruvian Christmas Tradition: A Comparison

While snow, Santa Claus, and freshly baked Christmas cookies feature prominently in American Christmas tradition, the Peruvian Christmas is focused around nativity scenes, a midnight feast, and fireworks paired to salsa music. Though both the United States and Peru are certainly celebrating the same thing – the birth of Jesus Christ – the act of celebrating it takes on an entirely new form depending on where you spend December 25th. In this blog post, we’ll explore the similarities and differences between American and Peruvian Christmas tradition.

– Christmas Eve

Fireworks in Celebration

Fireworks in Celebration

United States: December 24th is a day typically marked by a midnight mass at the local church and finished off with a plate of cookies and milk left out for Santa. It’s a day full of eager excitement and anticipation for Christmas morning, the true day of celebration for Americans. 

Peru: Christmas Eve is the main event of Peruvian Christmas tradition, far more eventful than Christmas Day. In Peru, Christmas Eve is known as “La Noche Buena,” or Good Night. It’s the climax of the entire Christmas season in Peru, so anticipated that families often launch their own fireworks in celebration.

– Christmas Mass

Peruvian Christmas tradition

Peruvian Christmas Tradition

United States: Midnight mass is the most common of the Christmas masses in the United States, though many families also choose to attend mass on Christmas Day and/or Christmas Eve.

Peru: Attending church on Christmas Eve is an important Peruvian Christmas tradition. The Christmas mass is known as the “misa de gallo”, or Rooster Mass, and is usually held at 10pm on December 24th.

– Christmas Dinner

Peruvian fruitcake

Peruvian fruitcake

United States: Though some families may take Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve, many sit down for a feast of roast turkey or ham, mashed potatoes covered in gravy, and roasted vegetables on Christmas Day.

Peru: In Peru, Christmas Dinner is a midnight affair that takes place after the misa de gallo. As the clock approaches midnight, the Christmas table fills with plates of roast turkey or lechón (roast suckling pig), a variety of salads and side dishes, always including tamales with aji hot sauce on the side. Before everyone digs in at the strike of midnight the adults toast with champagne. The meal is almost always followed up with panetón, a Peruvian fruitcake dessert. After dinner presents are shared with loved ones.

– Christmas Decorations

Christmas Decorations

Christmas decorations

United States: Come Christmas time, tinsel, wreathes, lights, and ornamented Christmas trees transform American homes into a Christmas wonderland. Stockings are hung by the chimney while presents sit under the tree, not to be opened until Christmas morning.

Peru: Christmas decorations in Peru sometimes include a Christmas tree, though this is a newer Peruvian Christmas tradition and not the star of the event as it is in the United States. Instead, the nativity scene is the essential Peruvian Christmas decoration. Nearly every Peruvian home, church, and neighborhood will have one set up, and often an intricate and elaborate one at that. In the Andean regions of Peru, like Cusco, Ayacucho, and Puno, you may even spot a llama or alpaca in the manger scene.

– Christmas Day

American Christmas

United States: The main event of the American Christmas, Christmas Day begins with opening the gifts laid under the tree and, for some, attending Christmas Mass.  In the late afternoon, the Christmas meal is prepared and enjoyed around the family’s dining room table.

Peru: Recovering from a late night of drinks, dancing, food, and fireworks, Christmas Day is often slow and quiet with little fanfare or celebration. The height of the Christmas season in Peru has passed.

– Spend Christmas in Peru on a Kuoda Custom Peru Tour

Christmas is an exciting time of year to travel to Peru, and no more exciting than on La Noche Buena when the skies alight with fireworks at midnight and families gather around the table for a Peruvian Christmas feast. Experience Peruvian Christmas tradition firsthand with Kuoda on a tailormade Peruvian vacation. We’ll guide you to some of Peru’s most unique and fascinating Christmas celebrations, complementing an already spectacular tour of Peru’s most amazing sights and experiences.

Get in touch with us today to begin planning your ultimate Peruvian holiday.

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