Christmas in Bolivia

Christmas is celebrated in Bolivia from December 24th to January 6th.  However, the most important night for this season is Chrismas Eve.  With 81% of the population Catholic and almost 14% being Protestant and Evangelic.  Christmas is a holiday with deeply religious connotation.

Christmas traditions

Nativity.-  One of the most important Christmas decorations to enjoy during Christmas season is the Nativity Scene.  Many homes place the baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas Eve, after the baby is blessed in La Misa de Gallo.

Navidad en Bolivia

Navidad en Bolivia

 I remember growing up, awaiting for the moment to place the new born baby.  We would light candles for him as a sign of reverence. C.C.

La Misa de Gallo.-   This tradition of Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, was first witnessed by Egeria, a Galician woman who went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land (381 AC).  She saw how the early Christians honored the mystery of Jesus Birth with a midnight vigil at Bethlehem, followed by a procession that would end at dawn, when roosters crow.  This tradition was imposed by the Catholic church in the 400’s.

After the Misa de Gallo, families get together to share a meal.  A very traditional meal in Boliva is la Picana, a stew made with chicken, beef (or lamb) and pork; served with potatoes and corn.

Plato tipico de navidad en Bolivia

Picana Navideña

Many families, on Christmas Eve, get together to share the meal, sing Villancicos and exchange presents.

Other dishes that are shared on Christmas Eve are Lechón (Roast Pork) or Turkey.  On Christmas day many families have Buñelos for breakfast.

Bolivian Villancicos, are the Christmas Carols of the Bolivian culture.  They are songs that celebrate Christmas, they are played on native instruments and to the rhythm of native music.  In Bolivia, it is very common to see poor children working, and one of the ways they make money is singing and dancing Villancicos on the streets.

The Tree, I grew up setting a Christmas tree during Christmas. Usually the tree is set next to the Nativity Scene. This is decorated with ornaments and lights, just like in many other countries in the world.

Christmas Decorations.-  In the homes, Nativity scenes, wreaths and Christmas trees are very common. The cities also dress up for Christmas, here are a few pictures of Christmas trees.

  arboles

Presents.-  Many families exchange presents on Christmas Eve, or  better said in the early hours of Christmas Day. Yes, they do it right after the midnight Picana dinner.  But, there is also people that exchange presents on January 6th.  Remembering the Wise men that arrived to Bethlehem bringing presents for Jesus.

Something that my family never did – but I read some families do- is, the night before January 6th (when some families exchange their presents), children will place their shoes outside their door and the Three Kings bring presents during the night, just as they did originally with Jesus

Bolivia is a developing nation, in spite of the rich variety of resources, there is still a lot of poverty.  Many families do not celebrate Christmas, especially with the exchange of presents concept.  For this reason, you will see a lot of social campaigns to collect toys and food for poor children and their families during Christmas season.  Chocolatadas (Hot Cholocate and pastries) are organized for poor children and presents are given to them.

presents

Canastón de fin de Año or End of the year basket.- It is a large basket full of goodies that employers give to employees as a symbol of appreciation for their work.  This baskets usually have regular grocery items, a cidra (non alcoholic beverage), a panetón (sweet fruit bread) and candy.

If I talk about el Canastón, I must talk about El Aguinaldo.  I am not talking about Christmas songs, but about a once a year bonus that is equivalent to a whole month of Salary for each employee.  Usually Canastón and Aguinaldo are given the week before Christmas. Private and Public sectors pay Aguinaldos, since is part of the labor law.

canaston

A very fun thing, that Bolivians do – that can be annoying to foreigners- is that, on Christmas Eve at exactly midnight all through the cities fireworks are set off. Noisy huh?  Also at 12 AM we wish each other Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas).

Epiphany, January 6th.- Dia de Reyes, when Catholic families take baby Jesus to Mass to be blessed by the Catholic Priest.  Usually Christmas decorations are put away until next Christmas.

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Please, stop by these other blogs who participate in Christmas in Different Land organized by members of Multicultural Kid Blogs!

December 1 – Multicultural Kid Blogs, Introduction

December 2 –  Mama Smiles, USA

December 3 –  Afterschool for Smarty Pants, Russia

December 4 – Laugh and Learn, Ukraine

December 5 – Expat Life with a Double Buggy, Netherlands

December 6 – Glittering Muffins, Germany

December 7 – Inspired By Familia Magazine, Latin America

December 8-  Kid World Citizen, Mexico

December 9 – Kid Yoga Stories, Australia

December 10 – Desu Mama, Cuba

December 11 – La Famille Brown, UK

December 12 – All Done Monkey, Costa Rica

December 13 – Creative World of Varya, China

December 14  –  Busy as a Bee in Paris, France

December 15 – Spanglish House, Bolivia

December 16 –  Glittering Muffins, Quebec, Canada

December 17 –  Dad’s the way I like it, UK and Ireland

December 18  – Head Of The Heard, Brazil

December 19 –  Mama Smiles, Sweden

December 20 – Multilingual Parenting, Finland

December 21 – Open Wide The World, Phillipines

December 22 – European Mama for Kid World Citizen, Poland

December 23 – Crafty Moms Share, Jamaica

December 24 – Multicultural Kid Blogs, Conclusion

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4 thoughts on “Christmas in Bolivia

  1. What a beautiful post! It brought back so many memories for me of my time in Bolivia. Also, there are so many similarities to Costa Rica, such as the religious importance of the holiday, children waiting up all night to receive presents, and the aguinaldo. Thank you for sharing!

    • Leanna. It made me homesick to write about Christmas in Bolivia, but at the same time makes me appreciate my culture. I bet there are a lot of similarities among Hispanics countries. Do you exchange presents on Christmas eve or on Christmas day?

  2. I loved this post! Picana is delicious! I also noticed that the trees you showed seem to be all made of lights. I remember not being able to find a fir/pine tree for Christmas when we lived there (at least not in our budget – I imagine they were available SOMEWHERE), so we had a small planted tree that we decorated!

    • Maryanne, Picana is so good I do not use three meets though. Growing up we had a fake Christmas tree that my Chilean grandmother brought from Chile, you could also find them in the market. I have not seen many Natural Christmas trees, at least en el Altiplano, The lady that took care of us (nanny) used to get natural trees that looked pretty rough, they were not like the trees here. I am so glad you like my post!

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