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As the hot sun beats down on Buenos Aires and the scorching heat transforms the subte into a Bikram yoga lover’s paradise, the last thing many Northern hemispheric foreigners think of is Christmas.  While there may not be a lite music station that blasts Christmas hits all day long, no bombardment from commercial opportunists, and the concept of a white Christmas remains far removed from porteño culture, locals still celebrate Christmas the Argentine way.

Christmas Day, similar to other countries, is generally a quiet day spent with family. Christmas Eve (Nochebuena), on the other hand, traditionally is a time when extended families get together for dinner, in good Argentine fashion, cooking an asado. The celebration continues into the night with a midnight brindis (toast) drinking cidra (cider) and watching or setting off fireworks.  Then, after midnight is when the real joda (party) begins: gathering with friends and going to a party, bar or club.

If you are new to the city or have yet to invite yourself to a family asado, we are here to help out with some Christmas weekend activity ideas and help fill you with summertime holiday cheer:

For the Religious Experience:

– Christmas Mass (Misa): Argentina is a predominantly Catholic country with many beautiful churches.  Most churches will have a midnight mass on Christmas Eve (or mass between 9pm – 12am) and also mass throughout Christmas day.  Check out the Buenos Aires Government website for a church in your area.

– Tierra Santa: Have you ever heard of a religious-themed amusement park? Neither have we until coming to Argentina.  Travel back to biblical times at Tierra Santa, located near the Palermo Costanera Norte, where you can witness the “Last Supper”, watch “The Creation’s” music and laser light show, and experience a mock Jesus-resurrection.  Open Saturday (Dec. 25) and Sunday (Dec. 26) from 16hs – 22hs. Cost: AR$30

For the family holiday fun:

– Fireworks Show:  It is customary on Nochebuena to light fireworks to kick off Christmas. Befriend someone who lives in a tall building or has a terrace in order to get a great view of lights exploding across the city.  If you don’t make friends in time, head out to the Palermo parks or the Obelisco to watch the sky light up.

– Christmas Trees: If you long for a traditional holiday with the all the red and green decorations, you will probably be disappointed by the lack of festive decor.  Luckily, there are a few places that have large, decorated trees. Most of the shopping malls will have some sort of Christmas display, like the Alto Palermo Shopping Center’s version with colorful lights and Galerías Pacífico’s sparkling crystal adorned tree.

– Cultural Events: The Buenos Aires government organizes a handful of fun activities, many of which are either free or at a low cost.

For the party animal:

Unlike many other countries, Christmas is not just a time to spend with family, but also a prime night to go out with friends.   Here are two recommended parties on Friday and Saturday night:

– Friday, Dec 24: Fiesta Invasión Christmas Party at Niceto Club

– Saturday, Dec 25: Christmass Party at Crobar

For the non-tourist, tourist:

Deserted streets do have some benefits: photo ops.  If you are the too-shy type to snap away at buildings or monuments in fear of being labeled as an obvious tourist, your time has come!  As most stores and businesses will be closed on the 25th, transforming the Buenos Aires into a ghost town, take advantage of the emptiness and lack of movement in this notorious bustling city by wandering around with a camera taking photos.