There was something missing from Christmas this year. Or should I say, someone. David has been a part of the Christmas holiday for the last four years, beginning with the Jingle Ball concerts, then at the Christmas From The Heart Tour, next MoTab and last year, at the My Kind of Christmas Tour. There was no concert to go to this year, no videos on you tube to wait up for and no concert recaps to anticipate. I have no choice but to make do with the treasures he left us in the way of his Christmas cds and videos on youtube.
This year, Elder Archuleta spent Christmas in Chile. I hope he had a Merry Christmas, spent in a loving home, with delicious food and with friends by his side. But I can’t help wonder what Christmas is like, Chilean style. Do the Chileans celebrate the same way we do? If not, how different is Christmas in Chile from Christmas back home in the USA?
Unlike in North America and Europe where Christmas is celebrated in the winter, the 25th of December comes in the middle of summer in Chile because it is in the Southern hemisphere. Chileans could be found lazing by a rooftop pool under the sun rather than sipping eggnog by the fireplace or baking cookies to keep their kitchens warm like we do here.
Christmas Tree and Decorations
Like we do, Chilean families get their homes ready for this holiday by decorating. They put up Christmas trees, decorations and balloons. The decorative themes seem more religious based with Nativity scenes being a common feature. No matter what their social class, Chileans celebrate Christmas by making pesebres (Nativity scenes) weeks before Christmas. The traditional Chilean Christmas tree is decorated with baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and animals with the three wise men. Chileans display their pesebre in their front yard to welcome visitors and in an entire room of their home if space provides.Gifts are placed under the Christmas tree and exchanged and opened at midnight on Christmas Eve.
With 70% of the population Catholic, Christmas is the most religious holiday of the year in Chile. The celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is at the focal point with church services held every day during the length of the season. Many Chileans stay up late to sing traditional Christmas carols and to read the accounts of the birth of the baby Jesus from the Bible. The nine-day novena that starts the actual holiday is held with great importance. The main gathering point for families on La Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) is midnight mass “Misa del Gallo”).
Following midnight mass is a big family dinner held on Christmas Eve instead of our Christmas Day, with children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins gathered together to celebrate. In Chile, the custom is that three generations live under one roof and homes are handed down to children by their parents. Turkey, beef and other meats are served, with traditional Chilean foods and potatoes, rice and vegetables. Pudding is a Christmas dessert favorite in Chile as is a fruitcake called “Pan de Pascua“, the Chilean Christmas cake. Chile is known for it’s red wine which is used to toast the season along with a traditional drink called “Cola de Mano” or “Monkey’s Tail”, similar to our eggnog, and made with a liquor called aguardiente, coffee, milk, sugar, cinnamon and egg yolks.
The holiday is especially dedicated to children who open their presents at the strike of midnight or close to it. In Chile, Santa Claus is known as “Viejito Pascuero“, or ‘Old Man Christmas”. The kids call him “Papa Noel” and he travels by sleigh with reindeer to deliver toys to children. Since fireplaces are rare in Chile, Papa Noel must climb through windows to make his deliveries. An interesting Nochebuena custom is to allow kids to stay up or be woken up at midnight, then to take them out for a walk to see if they can spot Papa Noel and his reindeer, delivering presents.
In Chile, Christmas Day is more relaxed than in North America or Europe. Families engage in outdoor sports activities like surfing, flying kites and rock climbing. Others go as spectators. It’s a time to enjoy the holiday, visit friends and family, enjoy gifts, play with new toys, or head to the pool or beach to cool off and enjoy nature.
So basically, the Chileans celebrate Christmas in many ways like North Americans. They have the same idea of a Santa who drives a sleigh with reindeer and delivers toys to children. Catholics go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. They decorate their trees, hang stockings, spend time with family and have big feasts. The entire holiday season ends as it begins, by paying homage, with prayer to their Lord Jesus Christ, who is central to the Chileans’ way of life.
Elder Archuleta singing Noche Divina (Oh Holy Night) in Chile