As a country that has been deeply influenced by European traditions, Christmas in Argentina is much more similar to the holiday in Europe and North America than other countries in South America. However, some local traditions have remained strong. With over 90 percent of the population identifying themselves as Roman Catholics, Christmas is a very special time to visit Argentina.
Christmas Traditions in Argentina
Over the years Christmas has changed and moved away from its strict religious roots. Some criticize the evolution of Christmas in Argentina for becoming too commercial and more secular. However, what's always been important is the power of the holiday to keep families connected. In fact, Christmas Eve is one of the most important days, as Argentine families come together to attend Christmas mass before returning home for a large dinner and party. Like many other South American countries– Peru for example–fireworks are a central focus of Christmas Eve in Argentina. They can sometimes be heard until the dawn of Christmas Day.
Sometimes you'll even come across the lighting of globos. These paper balloons are lit from within and float up, creating a night sky full of lanterns.
Unlike the raucous night before, Christmas Day is very relaxed. This mood keeps until Three Kings Day on January 6, when Argentine children traditionally open their presents. On the night before, they'll even leave their shoes outside the front door of their homes to be filled with gifts. In addition to this old tradition, they may even leave hay and water for the Magi's horses. Traditions change and warp over the year and now it's also common for children to leave their shoes under the Christmas tree.
Christmas Decorations in Argentina
Christmas decorations in Argentina are similar to those of the U.S. cities: houses are awash in beautiful Christmas colors and lights, and flowers are found everywhere. Wreaths of red, white, green, and gold welcome friends and families into the home.
You'll also find Christmas trees, which blend local and European cultures, but the pesebre or nativity scene is still a focal point when decorating the Argentinian home. It was once the area to place presents but now shares a space close to the Christmas tree with presents underneath.
Christmas Food in Argentina
Like Peru, the main meal is served on Christmas Eve and is not so different than what Americans are used to. The typical Christmas meal in Argentina includes traditional roast turkey along with other meats, side dishes, mince pies, and desserts. It's not uncommon to see a summer barbecue, or parilla, going on Christmas Day with plenty of meat for everyone. There is also likely to be a loaf of panetonne, a traditional Italian Christmas bread baked with fruits and almonds.