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24.Dezember 2013


Hot Stone Shrimp Ceviche with sweet potato

In Peru we noticed that many of our visitors were looking for sites that talk about how we celebrate Christmas in Peru. I don’t pretend to be an expert in the field, but I’ve lived in Peru for many years. So this is really a personal account of what I remember about celebrating Christmas in Lima.

Like in the United States, the most important festivity for us is actually Noche Buena, which literally means "Good Night" in Spanish. That’s the 24th at night. Late in the evening all the family get together to celebrate Christmas. This is really what many of us refer it as Christmas for children. Most houses will cook a whole pavo (turkey), or at least those who can afford it. Apple sauce is also a must in the supper.

If you are invited to spend Christmas in a Peruvian house, don’t show up with the manos vacias, or empty handed. A good idea is to bring a paneton, which is like a high cake that usually comes packed in a box. Most families will appreciate the brand name D’onofrio, but other brand names will also do it.

Kids will find gifts under the tree supposedly been brought by Santa Claus. Now that's something that reflects the impact of the American culture in Peru. This long-bearded guy still dresses with the same large red jacket. Well, that is something appropriate to wear in the North Pole (or in the US in winter), but wearing that heavy jacket is actually nonsense in Lima. That's because our summer actually begins in December.

Like in the United States, fireworks are also banned in Peru. However, we don’t really care about that. Most parents will buy fireworks anyway. They will fire them by midnight. It’s like a big 4th of July celebration, except that it’s much more fun to handle the fire works yourself than seeing them in the sky only!

A good while after midnight, children are supposed to go to bed. This is when the Christmas for the grown ups begins. Many families will have big parties in their own houses. A living and dinning room will typically become the dance floor. Most peruanos like to dance very much. A good salsa song is always welcome. However, many guys prefer to just sit down and drink a few beers. Others would take advantage of this opportunity to get to know some nice girls. The "dance floor" can then become a place for flirting. Dancing is actually an excellent opportunity to get to know other people.

These tonos, or house parties, may last until 5:00 AM or even 6:00 AM. That’s why most people would wake up very late in the 25th. Nothing really happens in the 25th. However, late at night most people will still try to attend one of these parties.

I’ve read in a web site that "Christmas Day festivities in Lima are highlighted by a bullfight and a procession with the statue of the Virgin Mary." However, I have never attended a bull fight in my entire life. If you are an American or European guy or girl spending Christmas in Lima, don’t expect to be invited to watch a bullfight or a religious procession. I think that those things were mostly done from the past. However, I am not sure if they still do that bullfighting in small towns or villages though.

Most Peruvians are very nice folks. So don’t be surprised if you are invited to somebody else’s house to spend Christmas eve--even if you don’t know that person very well. Again, it’s a good idea to show up at least with a "paneton." Some hard liquors like wine will also do it. You don’t have to be very punctual either. This is because most Peruvians don’t feel they have to arrive to a place right on time. They know that, and they call it hora peruana. In other words, it’s OK to be 10 minutes or even half an hour late.

We hope you have a ¡Feliz Navidad y un prospero año nuevo!

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