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Christmas is just around the corner! Have you already written your letter to Santa Claus? There are many travelers who decide to go ahead and give themselves the best of gifts: to spend Christmas traveling. In fact, this is the season when the Torres del Paine W Trek is most popular, when more travelers gather in the refuges of Chile’s most famous national park to spend a different kind of holiday. Have you ever wondered what Christmas in Chile is like?
You won’t make it this year, but you can put “spend Christmas in Torres del Paine” on your bucket list and make it next year. To finish convincing you and get ready, today we bring you some customs that they have in Chile at this time. 😍🎄
Christmas Eve Dinner
As in many countries, in Chile it is celebrated on the night of December 24. It’s the perfect occasion to gather the family. It is expected at 00:00 to commemorate the birth of Jesus, and gifts are opened at midnight.
The main dish in many homes is turkey or roast chicken, although each family innovates in their menu.
The “Viejito Pascuero”
If the rest of the countries are visited by Santa Claus, Chile is visited by El Viejito Pascuero. Literally, it means Easter old man. This nickname is due to the fact that Chileans call Christmas Pascua (Easter in english). And since he is an elderly man, he could not be called any other way.
Pan de pascua (Easter Bread)
For many Chileans, Christmas does not come until this sweet. It’s made of ginger, honey, candied fruit, nuts and almonds among other ingredients. It is believed to have originated in Germany or Italy, where it is made with yeast and marzipan, but in any case it came to Chile to stay. It is similar to panetone. As it was obvious, the sweet could not be missing at Christmas. If you go to Christmas in Chile some year, you have to try it!
Cola de mono (Monkey tail)
No, it is not a monkey tail. It is an alcoholic beverage made from burning water, coffee, sugar and vanilla essence among other ingredients. Its origin is unknown, although there are several theories. On the one hand, it is said that in the past it was sold in bottles of “anís del mono” monkey anise, which had a drawing of a monkey with a very long tail on the label.
On the other hand, it is said that it is named after the former Chilean president Pedro Montt, who was nicknamed “the Montt monkey”. Others say that if you drink it, you will end up from branch to branch like a monkey (we bet on the latter 😝). Wherever it comes from, you can’t miss it at Christmas in Chile.
This is quite curious because the decoration is based on snowy pine trees and reindeer, icons of any Christmas in the northern hemisphere. This would not attract attention if it were not for the fact that Chile has an average temperature of 86ºF (30ºC) at Christmas.
These days are the perfect excuse to change hemispheres, even if it is only in terms of decoration, but you know, the Santa Claus lives in Lapland, whatever you call it. Lights and eye-catching lighting can’t be missing either ✨.
Christmas on the beach
In Chile it is very hot at Christmas time, they are going through their summer season. For this reason, there are many families who escape to the beach to celebrate these days and mitigate the heat a little. Valparaíso is one of the most visited beach destinations at this time of the year. Other ideas to spend Christmas in Chile at the beach are Las Salinas or Playa Reñaca.
Since December 1st you can already find several Christmas fairs in Chile. The Christmas fairs in Chile have stands of entrepreneurs, workshops, live shows… Among the most traditional are those of Paseo de la Bandera (Santiago) and Juguetina (Pudahuel).
These are some of Chile’s Christmas traditions. It’s great that, although there are common customs, each country adapts the holiday to its culture. You know, if next year you decide to spend Christmas in Torres del Paine, you can’t miss the Pan de pascua, the cola de mono and the visit of Viejito Pascuero. Chilean travelers, if we’ve left out any traditions, feel free to leave us a comment! 💚