Christmas in Peru

This year was my second Christmas in Peru. Like in the US and Europe Christmas here in Peru is a time for family and celebrating the birth of Christ Jesus. Of course Christmas in Peru also means food, gifts, fireworks and watching “Home Alone” 1, 2 and 3 for the 23rd time.

One interesting aspect of celebrating Christmas in Peru is how the traditional Andean religion and culture has blended with Christianity. For example, church altars are often adorned in gold (a throwback to the Inca’s time) and a very typical Peruvian “baby Jesus” figure is used in nativity scenes.

Typical Peruvian baby Jesus figures, Niños

Typical Peruvian 'baby Jesus' figures, known as 'Niños'.

Peruvians celebrate Christmas eve (“la Noche Buena”) with a dinner, followed by an exchange of gifts and fireworks at midnight. The traditional Christmas meal is turkey, and in the weeks leading up to Christmas the typical treat is hot chocolate with a sweet bread called “Panettone”.

I’ve noticed a lot of “Santa” images and figures, but Peruvian Santas don’t seem to follow the US tradition of putting gifts under the tree at night – gifts are simply exchanged between family and friends on Christmas eve. Unlike in the US, Christmas shopping in Peru is typically done only in the last week or even last few days before Christmas.

Last minute Christmas shopping at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru.

Last minute Christmas shopping at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru.

Overall we had a great Christmas, wishing everyone all the best.

Ward Welvaert

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7 thoughts on “Christmas in Peru

  1. Hello,
    My name is Ben Jonjak. I came across your blog from a link on An American in Lima (Barbra drake’s Peru blog).

    I’ve been collecting Peru related links for my blog “Streets of Lima” at:
    http://streetsofperu.blogspot.com/

    I’ve put a link to your blog from my blog at: http://streetsofperu.blogspot.com/2008/11/links.html

    Anyway, I hope to touch base with your blog from time to time to see what kind of news is getting spread around. Feel free to provide me with a link and do the same!

    Cheers,
    Ben Jonjak

  2. Glad you had a nice Christmas. That picture of Cuzco with everyone in their coats makes it look more Christmasy than Florida (where I’m presently at.)

    I was talking with my family about Christmas in Peru and they wish it was more like that in the States.

    Just an FYI: it was reported that this Christmas shopping season in the States was the worst in 40 years….ouch!

    Anyway, I hope you have a Happy New Year full of Peruvian yellow! I’ll miss that this New Year. 😉

  3. Thanks Rachel, hope you’re enjoying a nice holiday in the US. Rainseason started here in Cusco, so it’s pretty cool and rainy most days. They tell me occasionally it does snow in the city, but no white Christmas this year 😉

  4. Nice entry!

    While growing up in Lima, there was no typical looking niños. In the “traditional” set they look like they did in most paintings: pale skin, blue eyes, light-colored hair. Then some years ago people in Lima realized that in the provinces they had customized nativity sets (I remember clearly seeing this on the news) and this diversification of the aesthetic motifs in the nativity scene became a trend. I’m not religious at all but I loved the change and that they decided to appropiate it in this way.

    But still I wouldn’t say it’s what they do in Peru, since most friends and family I have in Lima are now into minimalist sets, where you can barely distinguish a human shape, and because there is still a lot of people who have the “traditional” nativity sets —which is understandable because they are the cheapest ones in the market.

  5. Thanks for stopping by Camila, and thanks for that background info. Most of my experience in Peru has been in the Cusco area so far, so I appreciate the insight from una Limeña!

  6. Christmas is a little different here in Mexico. Christmas itself isn’t as big a deal as the Day of the Kings in early January. That’s when people usually give gifts. In fact, Easter and Mothers’ Day are bigger holidays.

    Larry

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