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Celebrating the Holidays: A Look into Christmas Traditions in Guatemala

Latin America is known for its festivities full of color, music, dance and why not say it? Chaos! and Guatemala is undoubtedly no exception.


So this year I collected some photos and videos to show you how Christmas is celebrated in Guatemala!


Guatemala is a very attractive tourist destination for people from all over the world, and it is not only because of its incredible landscapes but also because of its traditions.


Decorations


Christmas in Guatemala, as in many countries around the world, is filled with traditions every year. In each town in Guatemala, the central parks are decorated with Christmas lights, nativity scenes and trees, in addition to being animated with live dance or marimba performances. The following photos are from the central park of Antigua Guatemal:


In each house they do their best job to decorate their home with the traditional nativity represented with small farm figures, but also something that I like about Guatemala is that there are handmade decorations that are sold in any market and that are completely organic, like the decorations made with a small yellow fruit called "Manzanilla", which is also used in typical sweets. In the most traditional houses they use this small fruit linked as a chain to decorate Christmas trees instead of ribbons.


Another organic decoration is the famous "chiriviscos" used in many Guatemalan homes, these consist of dry branches without leaves painted silver, and they are decorated in the same way as a pine tree or a plastic tree.


Food

As for Christmas dinner, many homes in Guatemala prepare delicious Tamales or Paches, and although these are part of the gastronomy of all of Latin America, tamales in Guatemala are considered the national dish par excellence, especially at Christmas.



Tamales consist of a delicious mixture of corn flour, cooked with spices, different types of peppers, seeds, tomato sauce, onion, garlic, and a pre-Hispanic ingredient used in Mesoamerica called "Miltomate" or green tomato, and inside they have a delicious piece of pork or chicken, all these wrapped in a banana leaf. Paches are a bit similar but instead of corn flour they are prepare with potatoes (Picture above).


The process to make this traditional dish takes around 5 or 6 hours, since each step must be carefully prepared to have the best result. Guatemalan tamales are sold throughout the year but at Christmas they usually have a different flavor, perhaps it is something that we associate with the season, and therefore it simply tastes better, although a sweet touch is also usually added, with plum raisins that are placed on top, turning them into a delicious mix between salty and sweet.

(I found this website that has a more detailed explanation of what Guatemalan tamales are and how to prepare them. Click Here


Traditions

Christmas is the date when friends and family come together to enjoy traditions full of joy, laughter and food, but unlike Western countries, Christmas in Guatemala is celebrated on December 24, and the tradition is to wait until 12 am, at that moment we hug, exchanged gifts and yes... that late, we have dinner.


Both on Christmas and New Year's you will know exactly when the clock strikes 12 am because the fireworks will start little by little until becoming a slightly chaotic noise for about 20 minutes, (this year we managed to take a video with the Drone so you can see what we mean); When you go out into the streets you will see fireworks of all colors in the sky, it is a spectacle that leaves visitors with their mouths open, since in any direction you turn you will see fireworks forming all kinds of shapes, but I think that The most beautiful thing is that when you look down you will see many people hugging each other, feeling grateful to have their loved ones close to them.






In addition to the traditional celebrations, Christmas in Guatemala also includes a religious aspect. Many Guatemalans attend the "Misa de Gallo" or "Rooster's Mass," which is a Catholic Mass celebrated at midnight on Christmas Eve. This mass is also known as "Misa de Aguinaldo" and is a time when people come together to sing Christmas carols and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.


Overall, Christmas in Guatemala is a wonderful time to experience the country's rich culture and traditions. From the decorations to the food and the religious ceremonies, it is a time filled with joy and warmth that brings families and friends together to celebrate the season.


On behalf of Do It Different Tours we hope you had a very happy Christmas and that the new year comes with many successes, health, love you all, and of course, incredible trips too!

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