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Guatemala - Christmas traditions & customs

For nine days before Christmas, posada processions pass through the streets. The beat of drums and the crackle of fireworks provide lively accompaniment as the figures of Mary and Joseph are carried to a friend's house, where a carol is sung asking for lodging for the Holy Family. After ritual questions and answers, the doors are opened and Mary and Joseph are taken to the nacimiento, or manger scene, where they will remain until the next night, when they once again go out seeking shelter. Everyone who accompanies the figures on their quest makes a great party with punch and hot tamales and dancing once the goal is accomplished. On Christmas Eve, the figure of the Christ Child is added to the nacimiento at the last of the nine houses to receive the Holy Family. This is the signal for the biggest party of all, and the home selected had better be a large one, since everyone who was involved over the last nine days will show up on this night. The Christmas tree has joined the nacimiento as a popular ornament because of the large German population in Guatemala. Gifts are left under the tree on Christmas morning by the Christ Child for the children. Parents and adults do not exchange gifts until New Year's Day. Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve follows the posada and is in turn followed by a full supper.


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