The Christmas traditions of Guatemala

The ancient Mayan culture mixed with Spanish Christian religious philosophy and rituals result to the unique Christmas traditions of Guatemala. Christian religious activity is performed by the community in the form of processions and novenas.

The Christmas traditions of Guatemala processions are performed for nine days with several religious statutes taken around the plaza or town accompanied by loud drum beats and firecrackers.

Carols and hymns are sung at selected houses commemorating the Holy Family asking for lodging and shelter in ritual fashion. The Holy Family are welcomed and taken to the manger scene for the night and they move on to the next house the next day. Everybody enjoys food and drinks after each procession.

The figure of the Christ Child added to the manger at the ninth house and the community holds the biggest feast of the Christmas traditions of Guatemala. The processions end on Xmas Eve during the midnight mass, but the festivities continue until morning and begin again in noon after church services.

German immigrants brought the Xmas tree to the Christmas traditions of Guatemala. Gifts for the children are left under the tree on the morning of Xmas Day following Christkindl. The adults exchange their gifts on New Year’s Day instead of January 6th of the old tradition.

The Feast Day of Saint Thomas on December 21 is a Mayan adaptation of the flying pole dance into Christian religious practice of the Christmas traditions of Guatemala. The motifs of the nativity scene are local in design and materials. The traditional food of the period is tamales. Even Paiz, a local department store chain, has joined the Holiday season by holding a parade of marching bands and colorful floats to announce the advent of the season. The Xmas motifs and popular cartoon characters draw lots of spectators, especially the children along the route of the parade.

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