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Holiday Traditions Around the World: Part 1 – Peru


Join Cultural Awareness International for this three-part series as we explore holiday traditions around the world . . .

Christmas in Peru

Christmas traditions in Peru date back to 1535.  The holiday has a long history in the country as the majority of the population practices Catholicism.  December 24th is La Noche Buena, or “Good Night,” and the main day for Christmas celebrations.  In the evening, usually after mass, families go home to feast on elaborately prepared dinners and open gifts.  At midnight, adults will toast with champagne, while children toast with hot chocolate, and families go outside to watch fireworks displays.   A traditional Peruvian Christmas meal will include turkey, tamales, salads, applesauce, and a sweet bread called Panettone.  Gifts are exchanged either before or after the meal and family members usually hug, kiss, and thank the gift-giver before opening their present.

The main focal point of Christmas decorations in Peruvian homes is the Nativity manger.  Also known as a pesebre, the Nativity scenes are usually intricately carved out of pottery, wood, or huamanga stone.  Family gifts are spread around the manger instead of a Christmas tree, and on La Noche Buena one lucky family member is chosen to put a figurine of Christ into the manger.  Cusco holds a bustling Christmas market called Santuranticuy that is centered on the tradition of building a pesebre and embellishing it as many ways as possible.  Santuranticuy has been held in the Plaza de Armas for several centuries and is a fun holiday event where visitors sip on hot rum punch, dance, and enjoy La Noche Buena fireworks.

Fun Facts:

  • In 1972, the Peruvian government banned Santa Claus from the country’s radio and TV programs, alleging that he was a depiction of western capitalism, greed, and an anti-Christian myth.
  • In the Andean regions of Peru, families exchange gifts on January 6th after celebrating the arrival of the Three Wise Men for the holiday Epiphany.
  • Peruvians enjoy drinking hot chocolate around the holidays.  It is usually made from scratch with melted dark chocolate and includes cinnamon and cloves.


More information on Christmas in Peru can be found at: