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There’s more than one way to celebrate the holidays in Peru. From folkloric rituals to regional dishes, these Christmas traditions display the best of the country’s diverse cultures.
Christmas season is in full swing and in every part of the world, no matter how remote, there are unique and special ways to celebrate this universally popular holiday. In Peru alone, a country with a vast variety of cultures and regions, holiday cheer shines as bright from traditional dinners as it does in folkloric rituals. Huaynos (typical Andean dance and music), religious rites and jubilees of every type express the importance of Christmas traditions in Peru.
Each region of Peru—the coast, highlands and jungle—celebrates according to their history, religious beliefs and customs. Coastal towns like Chincha and Cañete celebrate their Afro-Peruvian heritage with the lively festivities of Navidad Negra (Black Christmas), set to the rhythm of festive songs and dance; meanwhile, visitors to Cusco will overhear locals caroling in Quechua from the first days of December.
‘Tis the season for sharing special moments with loved ones, and in Peru Christmas traditions are marked by great culinary experiences. While turkey dinners followed by sweet panetón are common enough, traditional recipes unique to each region have been passed down generation after generation. Travelers passing through Arequipa will be tempted by regional plates such as rocoto relleno (pepper stuffed with ground meat and cheese) and pastel de papa (potato pie).
Both are hearty plates, begging to be washed down with the fermented corn drink, chicha de jora. In the jungle, there’s not a table that goes without juane (rice and chicken artfully wrapped and steamed in banana leaves) and the delicious combination of carne ahumada de cecina (smoked pork) with the fried balls of plantain known as tacacho.
A beautiful mix of Hispanic and indigenous cultures, Christmas traditions in Peru are unlike anywhere else in the world—and often unlike anywhere else in the country. Perhaps one of the most curious holiday activities is one that occurs in the jungle: various groups of locals will disguise themselves as biblical characters and dance their way through different neighborhoods, accompanied by tambourines and drums. Andean communities will commonly place the image of “Niño Manuelito” (regional name for Baby Jesus) at the center of parades and festivals. In Cusco’s iconic Plaza de Armas, artisans and peasants from the area can be seen offering colorful and unique Christmas trinkets throughout the month.
One tradition that seems to be present in each region? Fireworks. Be ready to see the sky bursting with color throughout the month.
Whether in the warm atmosphere of the jungle or in the heights of the mountains, Christmas traditions in Peru bring enthusiasm and union while evoking the best of each culture.