South America inherited Christianity from its European colonizers, but each country has its own profane/sacred approach to it. Kids reenact the birth of Jesus at schools and churches celebrate Mass, but there’s also dancing, fires, and chants that very much echo pagan traditions.
The Brazilian countryside celebration of Folia de Reis happens between Christmas Eve and early January. It’s a tradition inherited from the Portuguese, honoring the three wise men who visited baby Jesus when he was born. It happens in all five Brazilian regions and, although each city and village possesses its own traditions, there’s always a choir, dancing clowns, a ceremony master, a trio representing the magi, and a flag-man carrying the group banner.
In the city of La Plata (one hour from Buenos Aires), another tradition with mixed origins was created. Locals spend a lot of time building huge paper and cardboard dolls that they set on fire on New Years. People compete to have the best, the funniest, the most controversial paper puppets — it can get very political too, with representations pro and against governments.
Nativity scenesNativity scenes are very common, on the streets and inside houses — with both great and horrible results, of course. In Quito, Ecuador, for instance, there are pesebre competitions and a giant nativity scene is held over the Panecillo. In small cities all over Brazil, the central praça will have its version set inside a bandstand, often created by children (sometimes using recycled material).
“Santa should wear flip flops.” Poor crazy uncle, sweating inside his heavy red Christmas suit. It’s high summer in South America, and very hot. Many cities will host festivities on the streets, and people like to enjoy the fireworks, sing villancicos, and host neighborhood parties after midnight. December 25 and Jan 1 are often spent at the houses of those with swimming pools.
Nativity scenes are very common, on the streets and inside houses — with both great and horrible results, of course. In Quito, Ecuador, for instance, there are pesebre competitions and a giant nativity scene is held over the Panecillo. In small cities all over Brazil, the central praça will have its version set inside a bandstand, often created by children (sometimes using recycled material).
The Missa do Galo or Misa de Gallo is a traditional Christmas Mass celebrated in all Catholic countries, but it becomes a huge event in South America. It starts right after Christmas Eve dinner, and it’s not uncommon for Catholic families to watch it together on television. The Portuguese/Spanish name derives from the fact that the Mass is so long that people don’t get home until the roosters are crowing. There’s candle lighting, chanting, and after Mass it’s time to put baby Jesus in the nativity scene.
140 The Dell. Southampton
Hampshire. SO15 2PX
Contact: +44 7817911256
@Copyright Spanish for Everyone 2019