Cultural Tidbit: Argentine Christmas Traditions

globosMost South American countries are predominately Catholic, so Christmas is a very important cultural and religious affair. Here are some of the key Christmas traditions in Argentina, some of which are quite different from what goes on in other countries.

Household decorations. In addition to the traditional Christmas tree, many Argentineans also decorate their homes with a creche or “pesebre”. Using cotton balls to simulate snow on the tree or around the home is also quite common. Red and white are typical Christmas colors, rather than red and green.

Fireworks and Flames. In Argentina, shooting off fireworks at midnight on Christmas Eve is a Christmas tradition. I guess that’s one of the luxuries of a warm climate! In addition to fireworks, “globos” or paper lanterns containing small candles are also lit at this time. The paper lanterns are released into the sky where they float off like mini hot air balloons.

Three Kings Day. In many families, children still receive their presents on January 6, which is Three Kings day, rather than on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Having the Three Kings deliver the gifts rather than Santa or Papa Noel reflects a more Biblical take on the holiday. After all, the Three Kings brought gifts to the baby Jesus on his birthday, so it makes sense that they would still be in charge of children’s gifts. Children leave water and hay for the Three Kings’ horses outside the door. The kings will leave gifts in the children’s shoes, which are placed beside the door or sometimes under the bed or Christmas tree.

El Gordo de Navidad. Santa is becoming more popular, but he is still definitely an import. Argentines are making him their own by giving him a new name: El Gordo de Navidad.

Homemade Gifts. Prior to 2002, it was extremely common for all gifts at an Argentine family Christmas to be homemade. However, with the economic boom in 2002, this began to change and Christmas became more commercial, as in other parts of the world.