In 1970, José Feliciano wrote one of the most iconic Christmas songs, “Feliz Navidad.” While it’s been redone by several artists and sung by those who may not even know the real meaning behind the song, there is much to be told about how Latinos celebrate Christmas a.k.a. Navidad.
While several Latino families have adopted different traditions of Christmas time, many Catholic Latinos start celebrating nine days before Navidad. These nine days, known as posadas which means inns, recreates Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. On each day, families will go to their neighbors’ or friends’ houses, carol and invite them to join. To conclude the night, the group will return to a host’s house for games, food and drinks.
So what happens when eight of those days are up? Nochebuena, of course. This is what one may consider a pre-Christmas, Christmas. The day is filled with cooking mass amount of food, having family and friends over, and attending Misa de Gallo, Midnight Mass. After Misa de Gallo, everyone returns to the host’s home for la cena de Nochebuena, para mucha comida y celebracíon.
La comida? If you’re ever invited to a Latino’s la cena de Nochebuena or Christmas Eve dinner, you better bring your stretchiest pants. The table will be adorned with various Latino dishes such as tamales, a pork dish, bacalao (Cod), rice, beans, and a lot of desserts. The food differs from family to family. Don’t forget Coquito, an alcoholic beverage made with condensed milk, coconut milk and white rum.
After eating, if you can stand up, Latino families will often go outside to continue the night of celebration. Children are given chispitas or sparklers and firecrackers to run around with while the adults prepare the grandiose fireworks, not so kid friendly.
La Nochebuena always spills over into Navidad, which, as you can imagine, is filled with gifts, celebration, family time and, wait for it, more food. I hope your stretchy pants still fit and if not, maybe you’ll get a pair as a present.
Regardless of the traditions, food and gifts, there is one thing that both cultures celebrate on Christmas or Navidad and that is family.
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