10 Quick Facts about Christmas in Peru
10 Quick Facts About Christmas in Peru
Christmas is fast approaching and Cusco is taking on a festive air. Just like any other culture, Peru – and Cusco – has some unique and highly cherished Christmas traditions. Whether it pertains to hot chocolate, a Rooster Mass, or fireworks, there is always plenty to see and do around Cusco during Christmas. Here is your guide to the fun and (sometimes) strange activities and sites you will come across if you have the luck of spending the holiday season in the Imperial City in Peru. Here you can read about the most important “10 Quick Facts about Christmas in Peru!”
Early December: Chocolatadas and Decorations in Cusco
Taking place in the weeks leading up to Christmas, chocolatadas are a way in which people who have a little extra, take an afternoon to give those who have very little. It is named for its signature donation – a huge batch of hot chocolate given by cup-fulls to children and others, many of whom have traveled far and waited long for this simple pleasure. Chocolatadas usually also include the giving of Panetón, a simple white cake filled with dried fruits, and many also include small gifts for the children.
Decorations: nativity scenes
Nativity scenes are quite common in Cusco. Some are small enough to fit in a window sill, and some taking up entire plazas. In place of the pleasantly-lit nativity scene and the traditional animals scattered around the Plaza de Armas, those in charge opted for string lights in the city center. They are beautiful, but we are still waiting for a definitive reason for the change…
El Niño Manuelito
For those who know the religious roots of the Christmas holiday, it will come as no surprise that the strongly Catholic country of Peru has retained heavily religious traditions. One of these is the baby Jesus figurine, call the “Niño Manuelito.” Represented in various forms – tired, thoughtful, smiling, playful and evocative, crawling, – the Niño Manuelito always has a bleeding foot, representing the tortures that he would endure later in life. The site can be a bit shocking for tourists, but it is an integral part of decorating for and celebrating Christmas in Cusco.
December 24th: Santurantikuy in Cusco
- Santurantikuy Market
The popular Santurantikuy market in Cusco has taken place every Christmas Eve in the Plaza de Armas of Cusco for centuries. Artisans come from all over the country to sell their small crafts in the overly-crowded and exciting market. It is said that buying one of the charms is equivalent to making a wish: want to travel in the coming year? Buy an airplane charm! Looking to get married? Just you try and find a figurine as pretty as your “novia”… And so on.
As the day turns into Christmas Eve night, or “Noche Buena,” shadows lengthen, the temperature drops, and the excitement builds. If you need a bit of a pick-me-up after a long day of shopping, or maybe the cold is starting to get to you, stop by one of the street vendors to buy a warm “ponche”!
- La Misa del Gallo
At 10:00pm on December 24th, many Peruvian families gather in church to kick off their family celebration with the “Rooster Mass” or Misa de Gallo. For some it is a ritual, but for others it is not so deeply engrained in their traditions, and they prefer to skip it to go directly into their own family celebrations…
- Family celebration
Christmas Eve in Peru is usually spent at home with family and friends. Food is plentiful, and of many varied types. Those who can afford it will cook a turkey, and for those who are not so well off, chicken – often Pollo a la Brasa – becomes the delicious stand-in. Panetón is a given, but the rest of the food can vary from traditional Peruvian tequeños and guacamole, tamales and aji, to sides such as salads and applesauce. Drinks often include Champagne, wine, beer, and hot chocolate flavored with cinnamon and cloves for the children.
After dinner – or maybe before, depending on your family traditions – gifts are often given to the children, and sometimes also exchanged between adults. If you are lucky enough to receive a gift from a Peruvian this Christmas, try to remember that you should warmly thank the giver before opening the gift! When the children are finally put to bed, often well after midnight, the music and dancing begin. Often lasting until sunrise on Christmas morning, this celebration represents the joy and love we all look for in the holiday season.
Throughout the night of Noche Buena, you can see and hear fireworks set off throughout the city of Cusco. It may technically be illegal, but that’s certainly not going to stop Cusqueñans from having a good – and very loud – time!
December 25th in Peru
As Christmas day dawns, many children around the world are waking up to open gifts and eat cookies, but most Peruvians are going to bed. Not surprisingly, Christmas day is quiet in Cusco…Just preparing for the next big holiday: New Years is fast approaching! Decorations will stay in place until January 6th, Bajada de los Reyes, or the day when the 3 Kings arrived to give their gifts to the new-born baby. This is the last echo of the holiday season, and Cusco quickly goes back to its normal rhythm. But hopefully those charms bought in the Santurantikuy Market prove to be a good omen, and the New Year brings all the wonderful things that the holiday season promised!
Tours in Cusco
The Christmas holidays are a great moment of exploring Cusco and surroundings! Most tours in Cusco can be booked as normal and also Machu Picchu is open! We do recommend to book your tours in advance and not wait till the very last moment. Would it be a great experience to spend Christmas day overlooking the amazing Inca Citadel Machu Picchu or even hike to the top of Huayna Picchu? Christmas in Cusco gives many unique opportunities to explore this part of Peru!
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