7 Latin American Holiday Traditions

Holidays in Latin America celebrate faith, family and community in a festive, sometimes whimsical style. Traditions range from waking people up with Christmas carols in the middle of the night to carving massive radishes to burning effigies to ward off evil spirits from the year just ended.

In the five centuries since the arrival of the Spanish colonizers in the Western Hemisphere, the Roman Catholic Church has played a huge role in shaping Latin American cultural traditions. Its ceremonies marking the birth of Jesus Christ fill the holiday program, from midnight masses to reenactments of biblical nativity stories. But even as the first Spanish priests and missionaries sought to overturn the spiritual practices of African and indigenous peoples, some rituals have survived, often being absorbed into the observances of the Church.

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