As the holidays approach and the frenzy to buy the perfect gift for your loved ones starts to creep up on you, it is important to take the time and reflect on what the season really means. It is also equally important to remember that as Latinas, we have our own special sazon to the holiday season. There are a variety of different traditions celebrated in Latin America this time of year. Below are a few that may perhaps inspire you this holiday season:
• Posadas: La posada is a predominantly Central American tradition in which a procession celebrates Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging during the nine days before the birth of Jesus. The celebration begins December 16 and ends December 24. The procession walks from door to door in their neighborhood, stopping at each door to sing to those inside. Those inside sing back denying the group an entrance. This represents the rejection that Mary and Joseph faced on their search for a place to stay. This goes on until they reach the final house that allows them inside. Once inside, there is a feast served to celebrate the coming of Jesus.
• Noche Buena: Noche Buena is celebrated on December 24th which is Christmas Eve. In some countries, it marks the end of the Posadas. In others, it is celebrated by a late night mass and dinner with family. It is the celebration and preparation of the birth of Jesus.
• Navidad: Christmas Day is a day of celebration throughout Latin America just as it is in many other countries throughout the world. However, each Latin American country has a few variations on how it celebrates this occasion. In Brazil, a play similar to Mexico’s Los Pastores is put on. It consists of a shepherdess and a gypsy who attempts to kidnap the Christ child. Many countries will make a special meal and attend a Misa del Gallo. Misa del Gallo, or Mass of the Rooster, is a mass at 1 am or earlier that features a liturgy specifically celebrating the birth of Christ.
• Año Nuevo: Every December 31st, the world rings in the eve of a new year. Each Latin American country celebrates in different ways. In many countries, each person eats 13 grapes representing 13 wishes for the upcoming year. Houses are swept and cleaned to ring in the new year with a house cleansed of evil spirits and dirt. Many people also take a suitcase and take it around the block to symbolize a wish for traveling the following year.
• Los Reyes Magos: On January 6th, many Latin American countries celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings, or Los Reyes Magos. According to the Biblical story, the three kings heard the story of the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth. They set out to see his birth and bring him presents. To represent this story, many Latin American and European countries, particularly those with a large Catholic population, celebrate this by having the children of the family set out pair of shoes out on January 5th. The next morning the shoes are expected to be filled with presents. However, if the children were not good, the shoes will be filled with coal.
If you keep your traditions alive and remember the reasons for their existence your holiday season will be filled with joy and happiness!