The images and sounds of our winter holidays are memorable. Drivers slow their cars to admire the bright, colorful lights strung along houses. Santa Claus, draped in red and white garments, is everywhere. Snow falling, neighbors caroling, candy canes and stockings hanging—for many, this is the perfect picture that makes up the holidays.
For Ronald, a Casa Latina Day Center worker from Bolivia, the holidays bring to mind memories of many other traditions and celebrations.
Nativity Scene – “Nacimiento”
Recalling the deeply religious feeling of the holidays, Ronald mentioned the Catholic mass, Misa del Gallo, on Christmas eve: “It takes place quite late at night, usually at midnight, and lasts possibly into the early morning, which explains the name: mass of the rooster.”
Another tradition, quite similar to one in the U.S., is setting up the nativity scene.
“Ponche” – traditional holiday drink
While churches construct large, elaborate nativity scenes, families set up their own pesebres. Indeed, Christmas Eve, or Víspera de Navidad, and Navidad are hallmarks of tradition. Although some of the imagery may differ between Latin America and North America, some traditions, like this one, do not.
Families will also gather around the dinner table and share food. For Ronald, that means a midnight spread of salads, roast pork (lechon) or roast beef, tropical fruit, taffy-filled cookies called turrónes, and an eggnog-like drink called cola de mono. As they eat, children might be heard singing villancicos—holiday songs.
Día de los Santos Inocentes
On December 28, the Catholic Church commemorates the Day of Innocent Children. It is a holy day recognizing the collective assassination of all male children under two years of age by Herod in his effort to kill Jesus. Today, according to Ronald, it is seen as a day of craziness and tricks, rather similar to April Fools’ Day.
The Wisemen – “Los Reyes Magos”
On January 6, the Day of the Kings, families remove their replicas of the baby Jesus from their nativity scenes and bring them to church to be blessed. Children write letters to the kings, or wisemen. They leave them in their shoes in hopes of having them later filled with candy or gifts in the night. This day, known as the Epiphany, the moment Jesus was confirmed as the Son of God, is a day to celebrate.
We hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into the holidays of Ronald’s country. The Casa Latina Day Worker Center has folks who represent many different parts of Latin America, each with their own holiday traditions. It is with pleasure and joy that they share their traditions and celebrations with you!
And, don’t forget: it is not too late to call in for a worker to help with preparing for your festivities, from hanging lights to washing dishes. Also, keep reading for Latin American recipes, holiday ideas and a “How to Make a Piñata” video!
Remember that the Casa Latina workers are available to help you with your holiday preparations! Click the hyperlink to go to the Casa Latina webpage or call 206.956.0779 x3. to benefit from the experience of workers at Casa Latina.