Holiday Traditions of Bolivia "Merry Christmas"

Christmas Ornaments

In Bolivia, Christmas is celebrated from Christmas Eve to Epiphany, on January 6th.

As the majority of the population is Catholic, many Bolivians attend a midnight mass on Christmas Eve called the Misa de Gallo, or Mass of the Rooster, named so because it may last all night, until the rooster crows in the early morning. Church goers are encouraged to bring two offerings; a small baby Jesus figurine, and a gift that reflects their profession. At midnight, the nation celebrates with a massive show of fireworks.

After mass, families return home and eat a Christmas meal together. The traditional Bolivian Christmas meal is picana, a stew made with chicken, beef, lamb, and pork, served with potatoes and corn. There may also be salads and tropical fruit alongside it. They toast with champagne or wine, drink a called cola de mono, which is similar to egg nog, and eat taffy-filled wafer cookies called turrón. In the morning, they drink hot chocolate and eat buñuelos, pastries drizzled with syrup.

On New Years Eve families gather again to feast at midnight and toast with champagne. It’s tradition for everyone to12 grapes when the clock strikes midnight.

Giving presents on Christmas Eve isn’t a Bolivian tradition, although it’s gradually becoming adopted among the nation like other European Christmas traditions. Epiphany is when Bolivians usually exchange gifts, to remember the magi who brought presents to baby Jesus. Children leave their shoes outside their door, and the Three Kings leave presents in there shoes during the night.

Nativity scenes are the centerpiece of Christmas decorations in Bolivia. Churches have large nativity scenes outside them, some with real farm animals. Baby Jesus is placed in the manger after the Misa de Gallo. European decorations like lights or Christmas trees are not very common, but are also becoming adopted, usually in larger cities.

By law, workers get double or triple times their normal salary in December called El Aguinaldo, a mandatory bonus that employers must pay by themselves. In addition, many workplaces give a canasta, a large gift basket full of grocery items, bottles of sparkling cider, sweet bread, cookies, and candies, to their employees before their vacation. 

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Bolivia