Christmas in Bolivia

In Bolivia, Christmas is celebrated from Christmas Eve until Epiphany (6th January).

Most of the population of Bolivia is Catholic and many people go to a Midnight Mass service on Christmas Eve called the 'Misa de Gallo' (Mass of the rooster). At Midnight people like to let off fire-crackers!

Families often eat the main Christmas meal after the Misa de Gallo. The traditional meal is 'picana', a stew/soup made from chicken, beef (or lamb) and pork which is served with potatoes and corn. There might also be salads, roast pork (lechón) or roast beef, and lots of tropical fruit.

After the meal families might exchange presents, although present giving isn't very common.

Some people exchange presents at Epiphany, remembering the Wise Men who brought presents to Jesus. Children also might get a set of new clothes at New Years.

Nativity Scenes ('pesebre' meaning 'stable' or 'nacimientos' meaning 'nativity scenes') are quite common Christmas decorations in Bolivia. Churches often have large scenes outside them. The baby Jesus is put in the manger after the Misa de Gallo.

Christmas Trees are becoming more popular although often only in large towns and cities.

For many poor people and often in rural areas, Christmas isn't widely celebrated and it's just a normal working day.

In Bolivia workers get double or three times the normal salary in December! This is called 'El Aguinaldo' and is a government law and has to be paid for by the employers. Many workplaces also give a 'Canastón de fin de Año' or 'End of the year basket' to their employees. It's a large basket or container full of things like grocery items, a bottle of cidra (non alcoholic sparkling cider) and a panetón (sweet fruit bread).