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Which are the Christmas traditions in Guatemala?

Which are the Christmas traditions in Guatemala?

December 2, 2016
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Guatemala is known for being a multicultural country with more than 20 ethnic groups and different traditions. For Guatemalans, Christmas Eve and Christmas are one of the most special dates of the year.

Christmas is a very special date full of traditions, culture diversity and a celebration that makes all Guatemalan families get together.

Christmas is celebrated in a different way throughout Latin America. Now, we will talk about how Guatemalans celebrate Christmas and which are the main Christmas traditions in Guatemala.

The Food

This is one of the most distinctive parts of Christmas in Guatemala. Local people cook and prepare different types of traditional foods and drinks for these dates. We need to mention that the food traditions vary by the region, therefore, the smell, colors and tastes of the Christmas food is amazing.

The main dishes during the Christmas Eve dinner are tamales, which is a dish made of masa or dough filled with meat, sauce, vegetables and it’s steamed in a banana leaf.  The traditional drink is called “Ponche” which is a hot drink made with Orange, Apple, Cinnamon, Coconut, Sugar Cane, Papaya, Pineapple. You can also add a little bit of Rum or Whisky.

We can also mention foods such as baked Chicken, hot chocolate and baked pork leg.

The Decoration

Most of the Guatemalans start to decorate their houses with Christmas decoration since the second week of November or during the first days of December.

The Christmas tree is the most iconic decoration of these festivities. People in Guatemala go out to buy a natural or an artificial tree, take it back home and start decorating with the whole family.

Families also build something called “nacimiento” which is a representation of the birth of baby Jesus. People place the Nacimiento under the Christmas tree or in a special place at their living room. People build them with natural materials such as colored wood dust, sand, moss, pebbles and tropical leaves called pacaya.”

People also build Nacimientos of different sizes. One of the curiosities of this tradition is that the some Guatemalans do not place the Child Jesus until midnight of December 24, other families do place but covered and at December 24 at midnight, they uncovered it.

In some places in Guatemala, they have the tradition of something called the "child stealing" where someone steals the baby Jesus from the Nacimiento and gives it back on February 2 along with a party at home.

People also decorate their homes with natural resources such as strings with chamomile, natural hemlock branches, pine leaves on the floor and Marimba music.

The Activities

As we previously mention, families celebrate together with a Christmas meal full of traditional dishes. The families also wait until midnight to give each other a present, a big hug and begin the real celebration.

People in Guatemala also enjoy to burn fireworks at midnights. Sometimes, people last up to half an hour continuously burning fireworks. Guatemala’s sky lights up every Christmas with the different fireworks throughout the country.

Guatemalans also do something called “posada” which represents the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph from their departure from Nazareth to Bethlehem where they seek a place to stay awaiting the birth of Jesus.


During the “Posadas”, a group of people go walking through the streets singing until they reach the designated home where they sing, pray and at the end, the host gives something to eat to all of the participants of the “Posada”.

On Christmas day, people wake up, get dress and go to church for the Christmas ceremony. We have to mention that children are the most important part of this celebration.

These are some of the main Christmas traditions in Guatemala.

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