Thinking of getting away this festive season? Although you won’t get a white Christmas in Chile, Chileans definitely know how to do festive cheer. Chile is in the Southern Hemisphere, so Christmas Day actually falls in the middle of summer. Temperatures hit upwards of 80°F, which means that a roaring log fire is off the menu – but there are plenty of other traditions to get you in the Christmas spirit. So if you feel like a festive season with a difference, grab your swimsuit and your cola de mono and head to Chile for Christmas. Here, we get you warmed up with a rundown of five Chilean holiday traditions.
1. Viejito Pascuero is coming to town
In Chile, they call Santa Claus Papa Noel or Viejito Pascuero, which literally translates as ‘Old Man Christmas’. However, aside from the name, Chilean Santa has many of the same traits as the European and American Santa. He wears a red and white suit, drives a sleigh, and carries a big sack of presents. Equally, children are encouraged to write Viejito Pascuero a letter telling him what they want for Christmas. These letters are collected at Chilean post offices, where they run a gift program for underprivileged children.
2. Creative Christmas trees
As you can probably imagine, pine or fir trees are difficult to come by in Chile at the height of summer. Therefore, when it comes to decking the halls, Chileans get creative. While some families will have fake trees, many public places will use unusual sculptural trees in place of a giant fir. For instance, the Plaza de Armas in Santiago has an enormous conical tree decorated with hundreds of rag dolls.
3. The Good Night
The crescendo of Christmas in Chile isn’t Christmas Day – instead, it’s Christmas Eve. Chileans call this event La Noche Buena, or “the Good Night”. This evening, Chilean families will sit down for a turkey dinner and presents. Dessert is an important part of the Chilean Christmas Eve feast. Many families will enjoy a pan de Pascua, or ‘Easter Bread’, which is a doughy cake encrusted with candied fruit and nuts with a cinnamon and nutmeg flavor. Later, many people will attend Mass at their local church and sing villancicos, or tradition Christmas carols.
4. Barbeques on Christmas
As Christmas Eve is the main event of the Chilean festive calendar, the day itself is a more low-key affair. Most families will spend the day together enjoying their gifts, watching Christmas specials, or going to the beach. Equally, dinner will be a casual affair with many families rustling up a buffet of leftovers or enjoy a relaxed asado barbeque out in the sunshine.
5. Enjoy a monkey’s tail
In the summer’s heat, Chileans opt for something more refreshing when it comes to Christmas drinks. Instead of steaming eggnog or hot cocoa, Chilean enjoy a cola de mono or ‘monkey’s tail’. Although a cooling concoction, cola de mono still uses delicious Christmassy flavors. The recipe includes coffee, milk, sugar, cloves, and aguardiente, a fiery Chilean liquor.
A white Christmas in Chile
Although Christmas in Chile might be during the summer, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have a white Christmas. Although the weather might be steamy in Santiago, if you head south towards Patagonia you can see eternally snow-capped mountains and mighty glaciers. So, if you’re planning a festive escape to Chile, combine these Chilean traditions with a visit to Patagonia – creating a white Christmas with a difference. Check out Australis’ brochure for more information on our Patagonian adventures.