These are the Fun and Sometimes Wacky Tradiciones de Navidad We Love
Latinos party harder than most, especially during the Christmas season when festivities run from the day after Thanksgiving til mid-January. That’s eight weeks of partying!!! Doing things like…
Misa de Aguinaldo
Who does it?: Puerto Ricans
Credit: @plaascension / Instagram
What it is: A Christian tradition that occurs the 9-14 days leading up to December 24th where you get to go to mass at 5AM! But don’t worry about having to get up before the butt crack of dawn, it’s an upbeat mass! At 5AM! Those who didn’t hit the snooze arrive at church to play tambourines, guitar, maracas and sing aguinaldos (Christmas songs that aren’t super religious) and villancicos (the super religious songs) all at 5 AM!
Pro tip: Bring your own guitars, tambourines and maracas to avoid passing germs and because the church does not use your alms to stockpile these instruments.
Beware: The basket is passed at the end of mass so you can honor baby Jesus and provide for his future college fund. Bring change so you don’t go broke over these 14 days funding God’s son’s degree in “philosophy.”
Misa de Gallo
Who does it: Bolivians and other Spanish-speaking Roman Catholic countries in Latin America
Credit: @iamlonmar / Instagram
What it is: A toned-down version of Misa de Aguinaldo. Why? You only have to go to mass ONE time on Christmas Eve. But mass could start as early as 4 AM, depending on how religious your family is. (5 AM is sounding pretty good now, huh?) After mass comes a delicious sit-down dinner of picana del pollo. #Worthit!
Pro Tip: Wear a hoodie under your coat that you can either pull over your eyes or ball up under your neck to catch a few zzz’s. Don’t be like this kid ^ who is gonna have THE WORST neck pain when he wakes up…guess that’s how you learn.
Parrandas de Navidad
Who does it: Mexicans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans
Credit: @carolavald / Instagram
What it is: When you’re de parranda, you and a group of your friends show up, unannounced, in the dead of night, with instruments, outside peoples homes and sing villancicos. It’s like caroling, but extra Latino because it’s typically done after midnight. Oh, and the custom is that whoever’s home you’re serenading, they HAVE to host you with food and drink. This means you are always on high alert during the holidays for those unannounced, singing parranderos.
Pro Tip: If you want to be left alone, turn off ALL the lights and yell, “Nobody’s home,” when they are outside.
Who does it: Mexicans, typically
What it is: Your family and friends or co-workers all gather to go back and forth on a song recreating the moment Mary and Joseph finally found a place to stay. We hear it gets pretty epic.
How it’s done: You divide the party by half. One half plays the role of the innkeeper, and the other half plays the role of Joseph. Then you all sing your parts where Joseph convinces the innkeeper to let him and Mary stay so she can give birth to the son of God. Apparently the whole “she’s a virgin, but is carrying God’s son” thing was confusing to the innkeeper. Then everyone sings together to celebrate. There’s also food and booze, obviously. And raffles! It’s Mexico’s equivalent of a Christmas party and most companies will host one of these for their employees — unless they’re total grinches.
Baby Jesus Display
Who does it: Puerto Ricans
What it is: A miniature baby Jesus figure displayed in your home and/or in the church from December 1st-January 7th.
How it’s done:
Step 1: Grab that miniature baby Jesus stashed somewhere in a box, perhaps in the attic.
Step 2. Put that mini baby Jesus in a mini baby Jesus crib (which can also be found… somewhere in the attic).
Step 3. Place that miniature baby Jesus in its’ mini baby Jesus crib and display it wherever your home gets the most action, but not in the corner cause, “No one puts baby in the corner!”
Step 4. Put a collection plate or tray next to your baby Jesus figure.
Step 5. Adorn your baby Jesus in whatever way speaks to you.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to donate any change from the collection plate or else you’re that guy.
Nativity Scene Display
Who does it: Any Spanish-speaking, Roman Catholic, Latin American who wants to!
Credit: @unorthoodoxgt / Instagram
What it is: Similar to, but separate from the baby Jesus with the collection plate display, there is also a nativity scene made out of wood or porcelain figurines complete with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the Three Wise Men. In my grandpa’s case he had two miniature camels and one horse because duh, the Wise Men came from various places where horses were the transportation method. It could be a small and simple nativity scene or big and elaborate. Placed under the tree or wherever is the best lighting. Interpretation is up to you, do it your way!
Who does it: Puerto Ricans
Credit: @ayerimrl / Instagram
What it is: For Latinos ANY EXCUSE IS GOOD TO KEEP UP THE PARTY! So every night, for eight nights, post-Three Kings Day, a party is held. And the party don’t stop until January 14th… or ’til the 20th, if you are #hardcore.
Pros: You and your liver are really livin’ la vida loca.
Cons: You and your liver are really, really livin’ la vida loca.
Día de los Reyes Magos
Who does it: Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Mexicans, Venezuelans and more!
Credit: @wildgingerfire / Instagram
What it is: The grand daddy of them all. This holiday is celebrated on January 6, in remembrance of the Three Wise Men who bestowed gifts unto baby Jesus. If you remember, one brought gold, one brought frankincense (to reduce the stank in that stable I guess) and one brought myrrh. But no one wants myrrh. No one even knows what it is. Nowadays, Three Kings is basically a second Christmas in Latino households. Even the tree stays up for this one until its over on January 7th.
How it’s done: On the eve of Three Kings, January 5th, children put out water and grass (or oatmeal if you don’t have access to grass) in a shoebox for the Wise Mens’ camels. And, in exchange the Three Wise Men and camels, children get presents. More presents?! Yes, please!
La Rosca on Dia de Los Reyes Magos
Who does it: primarily Mexicans & Spaniards
Credit: @joorgevallejoo / Instagram
What it is: La Rosca is a sweet bread made in a wreath-like shape with raisins and currants inside PLUS… a miniature, plastic baby Jesus!! Whaaaa?! That’s right, a rubber figurine is, at some point in the baking process, placed inside the sweet bread to honor that sweet baby Jesus I keep telling you about! Whoever gets the baby Jesus in their sweet bread slice has to throw a party or dinner and provide tamales and atole for the guests. Sucker!
Who does it: Erybody boo!!! Erybody. OK, Puerto Ricans.
What it is: A liquor made with cream of coconut, sugar, eggs and baptized with Puerto Rican Rum! It’s the Latino egg nog and it is FUCKING DELICIOUS!!!!!
This tradition starts riiiight after Thanksgiving — most likely to help you deal with your family and to begin training for all that rigorous partying that lies ahead.
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