In Argentina, the weather is warm at Christmas. Preparations for Christmas begin very early in December and even in November. Many people in Argentina are Catholic and also celebrate Advent.
The houses are beautifully decorated with lights and garlands of green, gold, red and white flowers. Red and white garlands are hung on the doors of the houses. Christmas trees are also very popular and are often decorated for December 8 (the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when Catholics celebrate when Mary was conceived). Some people like to put cotton balls on the Christmas tree to represent snow! Artificial trees are much more common than real trees in Argentina. They can also come in different colors that are not green, like white or blue!
The crib or manger is also an important Christmas decoration in Argentina. The manger is placed near the Christmas tree.
Christmas cards are not common in Argentina and, although some people give and receive gifts, they are usually only between close relatives and friends.
The main Christmas celebrations take place on Christmas Eve. Many Catholics will go to a mass in the late afternoon.
The main Christmas meal is eaten during Christmas Eve, often around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. It can be served in the garden or be a barbecue! Some popular dishes include roast turkey, roast pork (in northern Argentina, some people will have goats), ‘vitel toné’ (beef slices served with a creamy anchovy and tuna sauce), stuffed tomatoes, salads and many different sandwiches like ‘tuna bread’ (special tuna sandwiches), ‘crumb sandwiches’ (sandwiches made of thin white bread without crusts – can be single, double or multi-layered!) and ‘pancake tower’ (a ‘cake’ sandwich Made of several layers of tortillas with different fillings).
The dessert can be Christmas bread and puddings like ‘Pan Dulce’ and Panetone, as well as fruit salad, ice cream and different types of cakes. There will also be sweets such as chocolate raisins, peanuts or sugar coated almonds, mantecol (a semi-soft nougat made from peanut butter) and different types of nougat (hard nougat).
At midnight there will be the sound of many fireworks. People also like to “toast” the beginning of Christmas day. Some people like to go to midnight services, but others prefer to stay at home and leave the fireworks and then open their gifts under the tree. More people also go to night parties and nightclubs as well.
Another tradition on Christmas Eve is the ‘balloons’, paper decorations with a light inside that float in the sky (like Chinese lanterns). The sky fills with them on Christmas Eve after midnight.
Some people stay up all night talking and seeing friends and family, and then spend a lot of Christmas day sleeping. Some people may go to mass again in the morning or late afternoon on Christmas day and there will be many delicious leftovers to eat.
In Argentina, the main language spoken is Spanish (still called Castilian by Argentines), so Happy / Merry Christmas is “Feliz Navidad”.