It’s that time of year where the Christmas spirit spreads and we look forward to simple holiday traditions— but have you ever considered what it would be like to spend this special day in Chile? Christmas in Chile is surely unlike the celebrations you have grown accustomed to. The weather is much more pleasurable for one, as the South American country dips into the summer season come December. Plus, there are those exotic holiday drinks served in Chile that you’ll be craving year after year.
Chile is a stunning country that boasts coast, mountains and colorful deserts (not to mention a hefty slice of the natural playground that is Patagonia). It is an ideal destination for a custom-made journey any time of year, though Chile is especially charming during the Christmas season. So let’s take a look at how Christmas is celebrated in Chile.
Forget pine and fir trees in Chile. Instead, the Christmas trees in Chile are more often than not fake trees that can be set up and taken down year after year. That’s not to say that they are any less beautiful or decorated with immense care.
Creativity takes over in the main plaza of Santiago, Chile’s capital. In the past, an enormous sculptural tree took center stage, featuring hundreds of rag dolls.
Nativity scenes are a traditional component of Christmas decorations in Chile. These can be seen in parks and plazas for public viewing as well as in family homes.
Activities leading up to Christmas
As the countdown to Christmas dwindles, children in Chile will pen their holiday wishlist. Moreso than in other South American countries, Santa Claus is a prominent holiday figure for children. In Chile, Ol’ Saint Nick is depicted with the familiar round belly red and white suit, though he is instead referred to as Viejito Pascuero or simply Papa Noel (Father Christmas).
Locals create stories of Papa Noel entering homes through windows (as chimneys are not so common) in the wee hours of Christmas Day. Farming regions of Chile may even depict the magical figure as a herder or rancher who, as opposed to reindeer, is accompanied by llama.
A unique Christmas experience in Chile
For a white Christmas, look no further than Patagonia. Bordering Chile’s side of Patagonia is a range of year-round snowcapped mountains and majestic glaciers. Away from the warm climate of Santiago and into the chilly landscape of Patagonia, luxury travelers will enjoy a postcard-worthy Christmas in Chile.
The Kuoda team can suggest plenty of luxury retreats in the area as well as active experiences. For example, a hike along Hunters Trail keeps the picturesque Paine Massif in view while leading travelers to cave paintings and colorful landscapes. This is also one of the best places in Chile to see wildlife, with creatures like guanacos, foxes and condors to remind you that this Christmas is unlike any other.
Ask your Kuoda travel designer about planning a South America holiday vacation!
Unlike Christmas celebrations that take place in the United States, the big celebration takes place on December 24. Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) in Chile typically consists of generations of family members gathering at a home and sharing a festive meal around 9pm or 10pm.
With a full belly, traditional Catholic families will attend the midnight mass, Misa de Gallos. The translated name, Rooster Mass, may sound strange but it is in reference to the fact that the service ends so late that one may hear the roosters calling as they leave the church.
Upon returning home, children dance with glee to see that Papa Noel has left gifts beneath the tree or around the nativity scene. Fireworks will light up the sky and adults will clink together champagne flutes, sharing in the celebration until the early morning hours.
As with all South American Christmas traditions, the celebrations extend well into Christmas morning. As a result, Christmas Day is generally tranquil as most families sleep in and recover from the night before.
Christmas food in Chile
Christmas season spent south of the border is your opportunity to feast on scrumptious food and renowned Chilean wine. Set on the table on the evening of Noche Buena could be a roast turkey or chicken, though it is also common for families living in the warmest of regions to light up a barbecue for an asado. Smokey flavors of rich meats will stay with you well beyond your luxury travel experience in Chile.
Another dish that any holiday table can not go with out is Chile’s chicken soup known as cazuela de ave. Fresh seasonal produce (such as corn, green beans and peas) ripened by the summer sun find their way into the soup, and the ingredients vary according to family and region.
The iconic Christmas dessert in Chile is the pan de pascua. More of a cake than bread, the pan de pascua is similar to the panettone treat served in other Latin countries. Packed with candied fruit and nuts, this moist cake is unique to Chile in that it is often made with rum.