In Chile, the Christmas season is often referred to as Pascua, the same word which refers to Easter. Decorating for the holiday may begin a whole month before Christmas, with holiday colored lights, garlands, wreaths, and especially the Arbol de Pascua, or Christmas tree. Nativity scenes, or Pesebres, depicting the birth of Jesus are also very important decorations, usually seated next to the tree. Decorations depicting the likenesses of Santa Claus and his reindeer, elves, and even snowmen, are also very common.
The nation is predominantly Catholic, so many Chileans celebrate Advent and attend nine church services, known collectively as Novena, during the nine days before Christmas. In addition, Catholics may also attend a midnight mass on Christmas Eve called the Misa de Gallo, or Mass of the Rooster, named so because it may last all night, until the rooster crows in the early morning.
Afterwards, Chileans enjoy a Christmas dinner surrounded by friends and family, in celebration of Nochebuena. A traditional Chilean Christmas dinner includes asada, or barbecue, with roasted turkey, chicken, and Cazuela de Ave, a special chicken soup. For dessert, there’s the traditional Christmas cake Pan de Pascua, bread stuffed with candied fruit, similar to Italian Panettone. Other desserts include the Cola de Mono, or monkey’s tail, a delicious alcoholic beverage made from coffee, milk, liquor, and cinnamon similar to egg nog, cherimoya punch, or Ponche de Chirimoya, Christmas cookies, and watermelon and other season fruits.
Chileans refer to Santa Claus as “Viejito Pascuero”. On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus rides around the world on his reindeer sleigh, bringing gifts to all the good children. He parks his sleigh on the rooftop, climbs down the chimney, and leaves gifts in stockings and underneath the Christmas tree. In the morning, families open their presents, although some will open them at midnight. Despite Christmas falling in the Chilean summer, he still appears in his thick red and white robes. Because Christmas is so warm, many families celebrate the day at the beach.