A Peruvian Christmas

“Early Peruvians immediately identified with the festival of Christmas due to the rural nature of the nativity story, where the baby Jesus was born in a barn. Andean Christmases began taking on characteristics of their own, and it is probably the most important celebration of the year. The Andean people put together Nativity scenes in churches and homes, perform dances and plays, and cook typical dishes. 

“Paneton (a cake/ bread filled with fruits) is very 
popular as are hot drinks of chocolate. In the week preceding Christmas, it is also popular for communities, churches or organizations to organize "chocolatadas" where people who are better off make a Christmas gesture to poor children by offering them a cup of hot chocolate and perhaps a small gift” (Amauta Spanish). 

“The Andean Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christ with a Peruvian flare. Art and food highlight the celebrations and nativity scenes play a big part in the Christmas celebrations. Many of the scenes are carved out of the soft and pure form of alabaster marble called Huamanga stone. 

Craftspeople also create Christmas retablos images. Retablos are a style of miniature carvings that when put together create a world of their own. The retablos consist of tiny human figures, animals, Christian saints, pre-Colombian deities, stars, mountains, lakes and anything the craftspeople can imagine. Beautiful carved gourds called ‘mates burilados’ decorated with Christmas scenes are also made. 

“Gifts are not normally exchanged during the Christmas celebrations, but most communities continue the festivities until la Bajada de los Reyes (the arrival of the three wise men), celebrated on January 6th. Gifts are exchanged on this day” (Earthy Family). 

As for Christmas sights that would be familiar to Americans, there are plenty of Western traditions in Peru. Christmas trees and Santa Claus in full garb are part of the holiday experience, although evergreens are not indigenous to the country, and December in the southern hemisphere is summer time. Not least, Christmas turkey is a popular and growing phenomenon in Peru. A recent article states that Peruvians will eat twenty-four thousand tons of Christmas turkey (Living in Peru).