In the southern hemisphere, Christmas falls in the summer, so traditions as real pine trees, telling stories around the fire or playing in the snow do not translate temperature wise. For most of our Spanish students, it will be quite a different Christmas this year, when they are now learning Spanish in Buenos Aires. Christmas is here is a mash up of the European traditions and summertime partying with friends and family.
Christmas in Argentina starts with Fiesta de la Virgen (a Catholic holiday revering Mary) on the 8th of December. This is the day on which the Argentine families put out the Christmas decorations and Christmas trees.
Christmas in a very secular manner. The church bells will ring at midnight on Christmas, but most people in urban areas do not attend the midnight mass. For those who would like to attend midnight mass, I recommend going to Catedral Metropolitana in Buenos Aires, where Pope Francis led mass for many years before becoming Pope.
In Argentina, unlike in many other Latin American countries, the children actually do believe in Papá Noel (Santa Claus). Often, the entire family will come together on Nochebuena (Christmas’ Eve) and celebrate together. At midnight, everyone toasts Merry Christmas and afterwards the gifts are opened. Usually, someone will distract the children while someone else will put the presents under the tree. Families with older children or no children at all usually exchange one gift with each family member. Purchasing a gift for friends is optional, but bringing a bottle of wine or food to share is a common courtesy.
Christmas’ Eve in Argentina most resembles New Year’s Eve. When midnight strikes, everyone toasts, congratulates each other and the skies will be lit with fireworks.
Christmas’ Eve parties go on until at least 03.00, clubs and bars start to open around 03.00 for after-parties.
Christmas Day in Argentina, again, most resembles New Year’s Day: families and friends will visit each other, while some other might stay in bed to recover from the night before. El Día de los Reyes Magos (or the Day of Kings) on the 6th of January marks the end for the Christmas season. During the holiday season, you will see a lot of advertisements for Pan Dulce. Pan dulce is special bread that is eaten around Christmas. It is sweet and stuffed with dried fruit, nuts or even with chocolate.