Holiday Celebration Tips for Christmas and New Years in Latin America

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Holiday Celebration Tips for Christmas and New Years in Latin America

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Thinking about celebrating Christmas or New Year's Eve in Latin America or with Latinos? If you're not, you should be! Latinos go all out for these particular holidays, making them some of the most fun of the year. They are also based on some interesting cultural traditions, which you don't want to miss.

So that you don't go looking like a total gringo, follow our list of tips below.

Socks with sandals? Really?
Socks with sandals? Really?

1. Bring the right beverage for toasting the New Year

Champagne and national beers are a good go-to, but some countries drink very particular beverages on New Year's Eve. In Colombia and a few other countries, aguardiente is an anise-flavored alcohol that is served hot or cold. Hot apple cider (with or without alcohol) is a favorite in Argentina. If you toast with champagne, be sure to throw in a piece of gold jewelry for good luck in the New Year!

Now if you're in Panama City and looking to party like a rock star, all of the city's trendiest hotels throw huge celebrations with food, open bars and live performances.

Aprovecha el último día de preventa para la Mega Rumba Oficial en el Megapolis Convention Center en www.tuboleto.com.

Posted by Hard Rock Hotel Panama Megapolis on Tuesday, December 15, 2015

2. Wear running shoes

A really fun tradition on New Year's Eve is running around the block at the stroke of midnight with an empty suitcase. This will bring you lots of travel and adventure in the new year. Add some coins to the luggage for increased luck staying in luxury accommodations during your trips!

3. Bring a match

In Ecuador, a sculpture is made from paper scraps or old clothes. Sometimes it's shaped in the form of a celebrity or political figure that is particularly disliked. At midnight on New Year's Eve, the effigy is lit on fire to represent the shedding of the old year and putting bad memories or events behind oneself. Panamanians do something similar by making a lifesize doll with old clothes and stuffing it with grass or straw. It's also lit on fire at midnight on New Year's Eve.

4. Save your appetite for…

Big family meals are popular on Christmas Eve, Christmas, and/or New Year's Eve. Usually traditional foods are served that vary among countries. Some quirky traditions are eating 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, eating a spoonful of lentils at midnight (particularly in Chile), and tasting pan de jamón (ham bread) in Venezuela.

Many families take advantage of being together by making time-intensive foods such as empanadas, buñuelos and tamales.

In Panama for Christmas Dinner you'll usually see turkey, roast ham with pineapple, rice with guandu and tamales.
In Panama for Christmas Dinner you'll usually see turkey, roast ham with pineapple, rice with guandu and tamales. If you're doing a family home stay in Boquete, Bocas del Toro or Panama City, the menu will probably look like this.

5. Put on your fanciest yellow or red underwear

You heard right. Yellow underwear is said to bring different things for the new year such as happiness, peace and money. If you're looking for love and passion, be sure to don red undies.

6. Brush up on the story of the birth of Jesus

It will be impossible for you to get through the holidays in Latin America without the mention of the Bible story of Jesus' birth. Whether you experience it through a Posada (community role play of Joseph and Mary looking for an inn to spend the night when Jesus is born), nacimiento/pesebre (super elaborate nativity scene), Misa de Gallo (Midnight Mass), Los Tres Reyes Magos (celebration of when the Three Wise Men visited Jesus, celebrated on January 6th annually), or by receiving a present from El Niño Jesus (Baby Jesus), you cannot escape the strong Catholic influence (with lots of booze and partying though!)

Live Nativity Scene.
Live Nativity Scene.

7. Prepare your singing voice

Caroling is extremely popular, but it is done at parties and family gatherings, not by going door to door. The songs are called aguinaldos or villancicos. They are very traditional and are religious-based. The same carols are sung every year, and can be sung to simple instruments like drums and tambourines.

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Search our blog if you're visiting Panama! From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss, you'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while in our country! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


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