Christmas celebrations are gradually beginning in all countries and the streets and houses are festively decorated. Traditional festivals are joined by shows, concerts or even Christmas markets.
In Latin America, Christmas celebrations take on a very special space in countries like Colombia, where street lights set the mood. The pre-Christmas season here is celebrated with impressive parades and colorful festivals, expressing all the joie de vivre of the Latin American soul. We took a tour of different countries in Latin America to discover how this special celebration is celebrated there.
The 2017 Christmas festivals in Latin America
Christmas Festivals in Colombia
In Colombia, Christmas celebrations begin every 7. December, the day before the religious holiday of the Immaculate Conception, when families gather and light candles at their front doors to be blessed by the Virgin Mary.
Christmas lights are the central element of the Christmas celebration in cities like Bogota or Cali.
This is also the case in the Colombian city of MedellIn, which, according to National Geographic magazine, is the proud owner of one of the most impressive Christmas illuminations in the world. In fact, this city welcomes Christmas with a wide-ranging program in which lights play the leading role, thanks to the famous Festival of Lights, for which more than 30 million colored bulbs are lit to represent typical scenes of regional rural life. The spectacular decoration of the streets of MedellIn is crowned by a 25-meter-high Christmas tree and thousands of handmade figurines, from which stand out the gigantic Magi awaiting the arrival of the Christ Child.
The impressive colorful illumination stretches along the course of the MedellIn River from the bridge of Guayaquil to the so-called Intelligent Building of the EPM (Empresas Públicas de MedellIn) and lasts for a month and a half, from the end of November to mid-January, until after the celebration of Epiphany.
An outstanding point of the festival program is the competition Somos Luces ("We are lights"), where one of the 70 neighborhoods of MedellIn is awarded for the best illumination. Also famous are the Desfile de las Luces ("Parade of Lights") and the Carrera de las Luces ("Race of Lights"), a marathon amidst the Christmas lights.
To enjoy all of the city’s Christmas lights you can take a bus tour of the illuminated areas, but many locals prefer to enjoy a typical Colombian Chiva (literally "goat") for hire: brightly painted minibuses in which there is also singing and music at the same time. The icing on the cake of this bustling celebration is the interactive fountains of the Guayaquil Bridge, which are used by young and old to refresh themselves amid MedellIn’s sea of Christmas lights.
Even in the villages of the Cauca Valley there is no lack of ancient and interesting traditions. Thus, there are the ChirimIas or Trovadores, music groups playing traditional Christmas carols with traditional instruments in the streets.
Christmas festivals in Brazil
In Brazil, traditions inherited from the Portuguese colony are mixed with others that originated in the Americas, as well as those of the country’s many ethnic minorities. One of the innumerable festivities makes the city of Grumado, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, shine in festive light, where every year more than 2 million people gather to celebrate the Natal Luz an event that lasts 60 days and in which the streets and stores of the entire city are decorated. Christmas parades, plays, concerts and fireworks are part of the festivities of this season.
In the center of Rio de Janeiro’s Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, a huge Christmas tree 85 meters high is erected every year, the arvore de Natal da Lagoa. This tree, which produces amazing light and sound effects, is the center of the festivities in Rio.
In Curitiba, in the south of Brazil, the houses of the different neighborhoods compete for the most spectacular decoration.
Christmas festivals in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, the Christmas festivities extend from 1. December until 2. February, although the most important celebrations take place on the Christmas holidays, especially on Christmas Eve. On 25. December fireworks, rockets and all kinds of lights illuminate the streets. Amusement parks are opened with merry-go-rounds, wheels of fortune and other games of chance, where young and old can enjoy themselves. The night before is celebrated with a meal and dances that last well into the night.
The capital of Costa Rica is also completely taken over by the Christmas lights that bathe the streets of the city in the typical Christmas light of the countries of Latin America. Parades with colorful floats and masks, fireworks and music fill the Festival de la Luz ("Festival of Lights") of San Jose with a bombastic atmosphere, turning it into one of the most anticipated events of the year. The parade begins with a fireworks display set off from the rooftops of downtown skyscrapers. About 15 selected orchestras participate, playing Christmas carols, as well as a number of floats that varies each year.
At the end of the Christmas season, the arrival of the Magi is celebrated by placing their figures in the manger. But each family decides for itself when Christmas is over, namely when the Christmas decorations and the nativity scene are taken down.
Christmas festivals in Mexico
On the nine days before Christmas, Mexico and other countries in Central America celebrate the feast of Posadas instead of. These pre-Christmas celebrations depict Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn on their way to Bethlehem. Small groups of children, carrying figures of Mary and Joseph in their hands, go from house to house asking for a place to stay. This interesting nine-day festival is mixed with non-religious traditions and others that are only indirectly related to religion. Each procession ends with the children decorating the Pinatas smashed, colorful figures made of papier-mâche, which contain sweets and gifts. And it is traditionally accompanied by a chocolate drink.
The celebration of the Posadas and the Pinata of Acolman, 33 km from the Mexican capital, are very famous, as it is believed that the tradition originated in this place. Perhaps because of this, there are great artisans who create the most beautiful Pinatas of the country.
After the nine days of Posadas Colorful festivals are celebrated in places like Mexico City, and the mariachis liven up the streets with music. A big parade takes place in the center of the capital of Mexico, while in Zocalo Square a huge skating rink, adorned by an impressive fir tree, invites beginners and professionals to ice skate.
In the Mexican city of Oaxaca, the "Night of the Radishes" is the most anticipated celebration of the Christmas season and probably the most extraordinary in the entire country. On the night of the 23. In December, a competition with up to 100 participants takes place, in which impressive Christmas scenes are carved from radishes.
Among the celebrations of the Christmas season in Mexico take the Pastorelas a special place. These are small plays depicting the Annunciation of Jesus to the shepherds.
But also in Mexico you can see the legendary light spectacles that distinguish other Latin American countries. In the city of Monterrey, the spectacle began in 2014 Luminasia at the Paseo de Santa LucIa, where the light and the colors are reflected in the water of the river, creating a magical ambiance.
Christmas festivals in Panama
Panama is another of the countries where the pre-Christmas celebration of the Posadas is celebrated. The highlight of Christmas in Panama, however, is the Christmas Mass and the dinner with family and friends that follows.
During the Christmas season, nativity scenes, garlands, lights and Christmas trees decorate the different neighborhoods of Panama City in a competition for the most beautiful decoration. There are also Christmas markets with handicrafts, where you can buy beautiful handmade pieces.
Panama’s capital combines American and Spanish traditions with a very special Central American touch. Among all the festivities must be mentioned the great parade, where amateur and professional orchestras play on floats decorated with balloons. It has been held since the early 90s, always a week before Christmas Eve, and over time has become so popular that it is also organized in many other cities in Panama.