I am back today with my personal feature, Sara 101, where I talk about me and myself and I and anything and everything that I could want to share about my personal life.
Since it’s December, I wanted to talk a little about holidays and since last year, I briefly shared some pictures from my Christmas Eve, I thought it’d be cool to kind of talk about the way I celebrate this time of year. At first, this blog post was titled how Venezuela celebrates Christmas but then I realized that 1. not everyone celebrates Christmas in my country and 2. that the way you celebrate sometimes tends to depend on where you are around the country. That’s how I decided to make this totally about me and just talk about how I tend to celebrate Christmas.
SO let’s get started!
I want to preface this by saying a few things. Venezuela, like a lot of Latin American countries, is predominantly Catholic, though all different kinds of religions are represented here. My extended family in particular is Catholic though I personally am not, but we’ve always celebrated Christmas as a religious sort of holiday. Also, because of the economic state of my country right now, the way I’m describing this holiday is going to be based on how I celebrated when I was little because at this time, we don’t have the means to celebrate the same and a lot of extended family has left the country to get away from the dangers here.
When it comes to Christmas, this part is generally shared world wide. We love to put up lights outside the house and have a big Christmas tree and decorate it. The difference between the Christmas tree I had in San Diego and the ones I have in Venezuela is that the latter is usually fake. Most people here use synthetic, fake pine trees to decorate for Christmas. You take it out every year from its box, set it up and decorate it how you want to and usually in late January in my house, you take it all down, put it back in the box and wait for the holiday season to come around again.
Another thing that’s common here and that always happens at my Grandma’s house is that we set up something called a pesebre. Basically we set up a few boxes under the stairs, cover them with a dark cloth and set up a nativity scene. Most people here have ceramic figures of the three Wise Men, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus as well as some farm animals and we kind of recreate the night of his birth. Baby Jesus isn’t place in the manger until it is December 25th so the rest of the month the scene is set up like to wait for him and his arrival. My mom tends to set up a little one just for us at our place too.
There are two different styles of music that people here tend to listen to around the holidays (besides translated Christmas carols): aguinaldos and gaitas. The first you can hear above and this kind of music has religious connotations. It’s all about baby Jesus and the journey to the manger and so on and so forth. It’s kind of fun to listen to on Christmas Eve but not for too long because it starts to feel very repetitive.
Gaitas on the other hand originate from the west side of our country, a state called Zulia. They’re lively and entertaining song, they can be about anything but they just generally bring up that holiday spirit. These are the kinds of songs my cousin and I play while we set up the lovely decorations you see above. We dance and sing along while hanging stuff on the tree and it’s just really, really fun.
I’ve talked about the holiday food before not only last year at Christmas Eve but also on my Sara 101 post about my favorite Venezuelan food. First off, I’m gonna talk about the main course, the dinner. Usually on Christmas Eve you have dinner late, around 9 or 10 pm, same as in New Year’s. We usually have Hallacas, Ensalada de Gallina, a different kind of salad, Pan de Jamon and even sometimes some other kind of meat. If you want a little more description about the kinds of food we have at dinner, check out this post!
Then comes the part that I love: the dessert! Now there’s a lot of different kinds of dessert that are common here but we also like what everyone around the world does! Sometimes we have quesillo, dulce de lechosa (which my mom likes but I don’t) and my absolute favorite: chocolate cake! I used to get super spoiled by my family and they’d get chocolate cake because I asked for it so it’s definitely a really fond memory for me.
Lastly, because this spot is turning out to be much longer than I thought haha, I want to talk about some of the Christmas traditions that we have that may be different from other countries. First of all, Christmas, like church for most Catholics, is a formal affair. You dress up for Christmas and New Year’s in formal wear even though you spent the majority of that day in pajamas and you’re only gonna be dressed up for like 2 hours. It’s very important to me personally to look nice and feel sexy on Christmas, don’t even ask me why, I’m just used to it haha. Because we look so fancy, we take a lot of freaking pictures. It’s like a wedding almost. With the parents, with the grandparents, with the aunts and uncles, with the cousins, with the siblings, etc.
One of my favorite traditions that sadly doesn’t happen as much anymore is how we used to visit neighbors throughout Christmas Eve Night. My grandma lives in a cul-de-sac where pretty much everyone knows each other as they have been in their residences for generations. Throughout the whole night, you can just walk out of your house and go to someone else’s, have some of their leftovers from dinner, hang out with them, dance around to their music and just share in the joy of the day. It’s something that I really missed when I lived in the US and something that I’m missing now as a lot of neighbors have left the country.
As Catholics, the kids are usually told that baby Jesus will be the one to bring them presents on Christmas day. I always had a weird mix of Santa and baby Jesus so most of the time I ended up having one Santa present and one baby Jesus present. These are opened Christmas Day but the presents that family gives to each other are opened at midnight on Christmas Eve. It makes a huge group of people handing off presents and opening them together and just sharing what everyone got and thanking each other for their gifts. It’s really lively and one of my favorite parts of Christmas specially since as the youngest I usually had the honor of handing everyone their gifts. After that, you hang out for awhile but not too long. Everyone heads off to bed to wait for the new presents (at least I did) and Christmas Day morning is usually filled with leftovers in arepas and lots of tired eyes and faces.
So that’s it for this post! I’ve loved sharing some of Christmas traditions with you guys! I hope it was interesting to read because I kind of feel like I didn’t explain things very well. If you have any questions, please feel free to share them in the comments! I’d love to know the way you all celebrate this season, whichever way you do. Thanks so much for reading and I’ll see you on my next post!