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Fiestas Vs. Holidays: Argentine Traditions For Christmas

It’s the Holidays -or Las Fiestas as they say in Argentina -a time for exchanging gifts, eating good food and being with friends and family. As foreigners, tradition can be quite different from us. If you’re from the States (like me) or the UK, for example, it’s good to know what Christmas looks like in Buenos Aires, Argentina. First off, it’s summertime. Maybe Australians are used to the sun during Navidad but I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. Second, the big day here is celebrated on the 24th as opposed to the 25th. Want to know more? Let me walk you through Las Fiestas so you don’t show up in a friend’s home bright and early while everyone is asleep.

December 24th: Christmas Eve to us. Some people are wrapping last minute gifts and listening to Christmas music, maybe having a nice dinner tonight, tomorrow, or both nights with family and setting out cookies for Santa. The kids go to bed early but are too excited for what’s in store in the morning to sleep. We get into our PJs with a cup of hot cocoa by the fire and perhaps open one gift early and watch Holiday movies. Nochebuena here in Argentina is when everybody gathers, usually in the parent’s home for a big dinner, perhaps a traditional asado, and drink good wine. They celebrate leading up to the midnight hour when they will have a brindis (a toast) consisting of cider and pan dulce. Then they begin opening all the presents. There will be fireworks and boliches full of the younger crowd celebrating with friends around 2 am.

December 25th: This is the morning everyone has been sweating over. We wake up early, and if you’re a child, run straight to the tree and begin opening presents. You can have a big breakfast, call up the family and spend the rest of the day visiting other people and exchanging gifts. The day is filled with delicious desserts, pies, and sparkling cider. In Argentina, everyone is asleep from the shenanigans the day before or outside soaking up the sun. Perhaps you will visit other people or have another asado.

December 26th: Today is a big shopping day once again. Many people are returning gifts or buying things on sale. For Argentina, perhaps it’s back to work.

January 6th: Just another day in the new year. We are starting New Year’s Resolutions and playing with our new gadgets. In Argentina, Las Fiestas has another day–the Day of the Wise Men. Children leave their shoes by the door and water and grass for the camels because the Three Kings are coming! More presents for the children come too in the following morning, those lucky kiddos! Then it’s back to reality for all of us.