Office workers forced into awkward Secret Santa exchanges, meat wrapped in a different kind of meat, paper decorations stuffed with tiny explosive strips are torn apart. Christmas traditions are a strange, mystical thing - and there’s a whole range of them, across the globe.
When it comes to the coffee belt, wrapping its way around the whole world between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, there’s plenty of Crimbo customs to be found - and some are almost as weird and wonderful as ours.
- In Colombia, Christmas celebrations and preparations start on the evening of the 7th December - ‘Dia de las Velitas’ (or ‘Day of the Little Candles’). Streets are lined with candles and lanterns and firework displays light up the sky, while everyone dances to music and feasts on food like buñuelos and empanadas!
- Instead of writing a letter to Santa, Colombian children write a ‘Carta a Niño Dios’ or ‘Letter to the Baby Jesus’. But they don’t put it up the chimney - they pop their letter in a ‘pesebre’ (crib) instead and hope he brings them presents on Christmas Eve.
- On Christmas Eve in Colombia, people usually stay up all night - Christmas Day is strictly for relaxing and eating leftovers! The fun doesn’t stop though, because on the 28th they celebrate Innocents’ Day - like April Fool’s, where jokes and bloopers made in the year are all over the TV stations.
- The main Christmas meal in Colombia is eaten on Christmas Eve night, and called ‘Cena de Navidad’ - it often includes treats like ‘lechona’ (pork stuffed with rice and peas), ‘ajiaco bogotano’ (chicken soup), ‘buñuelos’ (cheesy fritters), arepas (a thick corn tortilla) and ‘hojuelas’ (fried pastry with sugar and jam).
Manuel Duarte Orduz, from El Tolu farm:
“On the 24th we meet with the extended family (nine brothers and sisters, their children and their grandchildren!). The whole family has dinner together, gives gifts to the kids and then we dance until 2am in the morning. Then, on the 25th, we have lunch together.”
José Ramon and Maria del Rosario Collosoz, from Buenos Aires farm:
One of José and Maria’s traditions is to hold a Christmas party for all the seasonal workers who pick cherries on their farm. There’s food, drinks, dancing, and a present for each of them - usually with the name of the farm on it, so they remember to come back next picking season!
- Lots of Brazilian workers get what’s essentially an extra month’s pay in December (called a “13th salary”In Brazil), to boost the economy around the festive season
- On Christmas Eve, a lot of Brazilians attend a midnight mass called Misa de Gallo - which means Mass of the Rooster. It’s called that because it could last until the rooster crows to bring in Christmas Day itself! There’s usually a big fireworks show in most cities, too!
- We might tuck into a gut-busting meal around lunchtime on the 25th, but in Brazil it’s often a late night Christmas Eve affair - we’re talking around 10pm! There’s meat, salads, fruit, raisin-studded rice dishes and (due to the mix of European influences) puddings of stollen and panettone
- Turns out Secret Santa isn’t just an unfortunate thing over here. Amigo Oculto in the Brazilian version - and is pretty popular to do between friends
Sergio Mantovanni, from Planalto farm:
“All farm employees celebrate with their families, but we send each of them a Christmas gift basket with everything we use in our own celebration - roasted turkey, pork, chicken and rice with dry fruits, desserts, beer, wine and whiskey!”
- In Kenya, most people will go to a midnight service on the 24th December. There are hymns, carols, songs, nativity plays and more… but after that, the party really starts! Some people won’t even sleep that night!
- In Kenya, Christmas is a time when families try and be together - people travel from cities back to villages, where their family lives. But they aren’t greeting each other with “Merry Christmas”! In Swahili/Kaswahili (a Kenyan language), they say ‘Heri ya Krismasi’, to which people respond ‘Wewe pia’ (‘you also’).
- Traditionally, people in Ethiopia go to a Christmas mass that starts at 6pm on Christmas Eve and doesn’t finish until 3am the next day! They refuel on Christmas day with traditional foods like ‘wat’ (a spicy stew with meat, veg and sometimes eggs in it) served on ‘injera’ (a fermented sourdough flatbread).
- Ethiopia (especially the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) still uses the Julian calendar, so they celebrate Christmas on January 7th - a bit longer to wait! It’s called Genna or Ganna, and some people would have been observing an advent fast (eating just one vegan meal per day) since the 25th of November in preparation!
Lorving Calderon, from Mi Tazita farm:
“I have a family dinner with my father, mother, two sisters, brother and my daughter. During the night we play with fireworks, waiting until midnight to give each other a big hug and wish for success for us all.”
Filberto Guifarro Salazar, from Manantial farm:
“We have a big celebration of religious events with people from our community, family and friends - before enjoying home-baked bread, chicken tamales, baked turkey with tortillas and some good coffee!”
Carlos Meifa Rodriguez, from El Chollo farm:
“My family and I eat chicken tamales, baked pork and turkey, fruit and, of course, lots of coffee! And the night before Christmas, I share this food with my permanent staff and cherry pickers.”
Catalino Henandex, from Integral Cipres farm:
“My and my family enjoy nacatamales, homemade bread, roasted chicken, fruits and coffee and juice at Christmas.”
- It all starts on December 7th with the Quema del Diablo “burning of the devil”. This is a religious celebration where Guatemalans put up bonfires on the streets and even burn Piñatas shaped as little devils. In places such as La Antigua it is a huge party where tons of Catholics gather on the street. After setting a large image of the devil on fire, they party all night long!
- A Posado (a small procession with the images of Joseph and Mary) goes from house to house among the neighbourhood every night from the 16th December, until where ever it ends up on Christmas Eve. People from the neighbourhood follow it singing, dancing, carrying lights and lanterns. When they arrive to its final destination, they celebrate with afood and drink filled party!
Roberto Dalton, from Bosque de San Francisco farm:
“Bosque de San Francisco is delightful at Christmas. Birdsong fills the air, the coffee cherries are beginning to ripen and the magnolia trees bloom - it reminds Marta Dalton of her great grandmother, who ran the farm until she was 95.”
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