By Angela Padrón

Most Hispanics will tell you that Christmas is one of their favorite times of the year. Weeks before the actual holiday, people spend time putting up lights and decorating inside and outside their homes, including nativity scenes of Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men, and the animals looking over baby Jesus. Many children reenact the birth of Jesus at schools and churches as well.

In the United States, the traditional way to celebrate Christmas is to have a family feast and open presents on Christmas Day. However, in Hispanic households people start celebrating on Christmas Eve, a tradition called Nochebuena. The tradition varies depending on the country or region, but a few things are always present during the holiday: delicious food, festive music, and good times with family and friends.

Many Hispanics celebrate the nine days leading up to Christmas, or la Navidad, with posadas, which means “inns.” Posadas are meant to simulate the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph as they looked for a place to sleep. People go caroling and sing songs from house to house, where the neighbors also join in the procession. Finally, everyone ends up at one person’s house to enjoy food and games.

After eating a delicious Nochebuena feast, many kids play with chispitas or sparklers, smoke bombs, and firecrackers. The adults put on a bigger fireworks displays. In Mexico, people make star-shaped piñatas with clay pots and fill them with peanuts, candies, and fruit for kids to enjoy. And of course, no Christmas Eve celebration would be complete without everyone opening up their presents at midnight from Papá Noel, otherwise known as Santa Claus.

Many Hispanics hold true to their religion, and because Christmas is based on religious beliefs, the day would not be complete without attending a midnight mass known as misa de gallo, or “rooster’s mass.”

No matter how Christmas is celebrated, it undoubtedly continues to be one of the most important and fun-filled holidays in Latin America.

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