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December 22nd, 2011 at 5:01 am

Celebrating Christmas Latino Style

Unlike many Americans, most Latinos celebrate Christmas on December 24, known as Nochebuena (or Christmas Eve), with a big dinner together with family and friends, great music and lots of gifts.

In my family, December 25 is a day of rest, as the celebration that begins the night before can extend into the wee hours. Generally, on Christmas Day, my kids open presents from Santa and we spend the day relaxing, watching them play with their new toys. Oh, and eating leftovers from our Nochebuena dinner too!

As a child, we used to attend the famous Midnight Mass, which marks the birth of Jesus and is carried out at 12 midnight in many Catholic churches. I stopped doing that a long time ago and it’s apparently a custom that has been disappearing since only two churches offer the service in the city where I live. According to tradition, it’s called Misa de Gallo in reference to the rooster who witnessed the birth of Jesus and announced it to the world. Many people who attend Midnight Mass like to take the figure of baby Jesus figure to be blessed before adding it to their nativity scene.Back home, the party begins with a traditional Nochebuena dinner. The dishes served depend not only on the preferences and traditions of each family, but the country they come from.In Mexico, for example, dinner can include homemade tamales, atole, bacalao (cod) a la Vizcaina or romeritos en revoltijo (a dish made with Mexican greens) accompanied by buñuelos (small donuts) for dessert and ponche (punch) to toast.In other Latin American countries, especially those in the Caribbean, the main dish is lechón (roast pork) with rice and beans, pasteles (tamales) and different salads. Plus, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Coquito, an alcoholic beverage made ​​with coconut milk, condensed milk and white rum.

We are a fully bicultural family, so our Nochebuena dinner will have the traditional turkey made by my American brother-in-law and lechón made by my Puerto Rican husband. Merry Christmas!

How do you celebrate Christmas?

Photo credit: Luz Adriana Villa A.

Roxana A. Soto is the Editorial Director of SpanglishBaby and she also writes for Moms Clean Air ForcePulso VerdeNew Futuro and Fox News Latino

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