7 Latin American Holiday Traditions


Holidays in Latin America celebrate faith, family and community in a festive, sometimes whimsical, style. Traditions range from waking people up with Christmas songs in the middle of the night to sculpting massive radishes to burning effigies to ward off bad spirits from the year just ended.

In the five centuries since Spanish colonizers arrived in the Western Hemisphere, the Roman Catholic Church has played a huge role in shaping Latin American cultural traditions. Its ceremonies marking the birth of Jesus Christ cram the holiday schedule—from midnight Masses to reenactments of biblical nativity stories. But even as early Spanish priests and missionaries sought to quash the spiritual practices of African and Indigenous peoples, some rituals survived, often by being absorbed into the Church’s observances.


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