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Published on: Culture

Fun and Fascinating Christmas Traditions in Chile

Did you know that while a large portion of the world is donning scarves and sipping hot cocoa amidst a snowy backdrop, many Chileans are celebrating their Christmas with the scent of sunscreen and the sound of ocean waves? That’s right! This is an important fact you need to know if you are planning a trip to Chile. Due to Chile’s geographical placement in the southern hemisphere, Christmas in Chile aligns perfectly with the onset of their balmy summer season. 

This unique timing not only influences the atmosphere but also brings its own set of vibrant, sun-soaked traditions. From beachside barbecues to summertime festive dances, Chile offers a distinct festive flavor unlike any other. However, this sun-kissed setting is just the tip of the iceberg (or should we say, the top of the Christmas tree?). There’s a rich tapestry of traditions, customs, and stories waiting to be explored. So, come along as we delve deeper and unwrap the many layers of a Chilean Christmas.

A Deep Dive into Chilean Christmas Customs

Festive Decorations and the Chilean Christmas Spirit

Just like in many parts of the world, the Christmas season in Chile is adorned with twinkling Christmas lights, nativity scenes, and, of course, Christmas trees. Many families opt for fake trees given the summer climate, but you’ll still spot some fir trees sparkling in the glow of holiday lights. As you stroll through places like Plaza de Armas, you can feel the festive atmosphere permeate the air.

Santa Claus, or Should We Say… “Papa Noel?”

While many know him as Santa Claus, in Chile, the jolly old man in the red suit goes by “Papa Noel.” Legend has it, that instead of a sleigh pulled by reindeer, Papa Noel rides a horse across the Chilean skies. And guess what? He doesn’t come down chimneys but through windows. So, many Chilean children leave their windows slightly open on Christmas Eve in hopes of getting a visit.

Feasting on Traditional Chilean Christmas Delights

What’s Christmas without some mouth-watering food? Chile doesn’t disappoint.

  • Pan de Pascua: Often likened to fruitcake, this sponge cake filled with candied fruits, nuts, and spices is a must-have. It’s akin to easter bread but with a Christmas twist.
  • Cola de Mono (Monkey’s Tail): No, it’s not what it sounds like! Cola de Mono is a delectable concoction made from coffee, milk, alcohol, and spices. It’s the Chilean version of hot cocoa, just with a bit of a kick!

Many families also indulge in roasted turkey, salads, and other seasonal foods. And let’s not forget the late afternoon tradition of having coffee with Pan de Pascua!

La Noche Buena and Midnight Celebrations

Christmas Eve, or “La Noche Buena” (the Good Night), is the pinnacle of Christmas celebrations in Chile. After attending the “Misa del Gallo” (Christmas Eve Mass), families gather for the eagerly awaited Christmas Eve dinner. The night is filled with joy, music, and the excitement of giving and receiving gifts at midnight.


In certain regions of Chile, there’s a playful belief that, since it’s summer during Christmas, Santa Claus occasionally trades his traditional winter attire for summer clothes! Don’t be surprised if you spot illustrations or figurines of a sunbathing Santa during your Chilean Christmas adventure!

How is Christmas in Chile different from the United States?

While there’s the universal spirit of love, joy, and giving, how Chile and the U.S. celebrate Christmas has its distinctions.

Christmas in Chile Christmas in the U.S.
Summer setting Winter backdrop
Papa Noel on horseback Santa Claus in a sleigh
Open windows for gifts Stockings by the fireplace
Pan de Pascua y Cola de Mono Cookies & Milk


Both countries, however, share the joy of spending time with family, indulging in festive feasts, and celebrating the spirit of Christmas.

Delving Deeper: The Spiritual and Cultural Essence of Chilean Christmas

Novenas and Spiritual Preparation

The nine days leading up to Christmas are of profound spiritual significance for many Chileans. Known as ‘novenas,’ these days are dedicated to prayer and reflection, serving as a period of spiritual preparation. During these nine days, families often visit their local church to participate in prayers and songs, with each day bringing them closer to the joyous celebration of Christmas.

Old Man Christmas – An Endearing Folk Figure

While Papa Noel is widely recognized, there’s another figure that holds a special place in the hearts of the Chilean people: the “Old Man Christmas” or “Viejo Pascuero.” Clad in a white suit and hat, he embodies the spirit of giving and joy. In some parts of Chile, he’s seen riding a horse, while in others, he’s known to hand out gifts to children in public spaces like Viña del Mar.

Seasonal Activities and Shared Moments

  • Watching Christmas Specials: Many families gather around the TV to enjoy Christmas specials, making memories and sharing laughter.
  • Crafting Rag Dolls: In certain regions of Chile, crafting rag dolls is a cherished tradition. These hand-made dolls symbolize the nativity and are often gifted to loved ones.
  • Visiting Nativity Scenes: It’s common for towns and cities in Chile to set up large nativity scenes, especially in prominent locations like the Plaza de Armas. Families often make it a tradition to visit these scenes, capturing the essence of the Christmas story.
Image by Tessa Rampersad via Unsplash

Summer Christmas: Embracing Festivities Under the Sun

Vibrant Outdoor Celebrations

Given that Christmas in Chile falls during the warm summer months, outdoor festivities take center stage. Families and communities come together in parks, beaches, and open-air venues to celebrate. Whether it’s picnics in the lush Chilean countryside, beach barbecues along the Pacific coast, or local fairs in town squares, the energy is electric!

Traditional Chilean Music and Dance

Music and dance play a pivotal role in Chilean culture, and Christmas is no exception. Cueca, the national dance of Chile, is often performed with a festive twist. Musicians and dancers dressed in traditional attire take to the streets, captivating locals and tourists alike with their spirited performances.

Cooling Down with Seasonal Summer Treats

While hot beverages like Cola de Mono are a staple, Chileans also indulge in refreshing summer treats to beat the heat:

  • Helados (Ice Creams): Unique flavors, often inspired by seasonal fruits and local ingredients, are a hit during this time.
  • Chicha: A traditional fermented beverage, Chicha is often enjoyed in its cooler version during the summer months, offering a sweet, tangy refreshment.
  • Terremoto (Earthquake): This summer drink, aptly named ‘earthquake’ for its potent mix, combines pineapple ice cream, white wine, and grenadine. A must-try for the adventurous souls!

Embracing the Spirit of Summer

What makes Christmas in Chile truly unique is the blend of traditional Christmas symbols with summer festivities. You might find Santa Claus or Papa Noel surfing on a beach or communities coming together for outdoor Christmas film screenings. The beauty of the southern hemisphere’s Christmas lies in its perfect amalgamation of festive joy and summer vibes.


Did you know that in Chile, there’s a unique tradition where people set up “Christmas ladders” next to their Christmas trees? These ladders, often made of wood and adorned with lights and decorations, symbolize the ascent to heaven and are believed to help prayers reach their destination faster.

Answering Your Burning Questions About Chilean Christmas

What are some Christmas traditions in Chile?

From the delectable Pan de Pascua and Cola de Mono to the joyous celebrations of La Noche Buena, Chile is rich in unique Christmas traditions that blend spiritual depth with festive cheer.

What do Chileans believe for Christmas?

The foundation of Christmas in Chile is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Family, love, and togetherness are at the heart of the Chilean Christmas experience.

What do people eat in Chile at Christmas?

Apart from the aforementioned Pan de Pascua and Cola de Mono, many indulge in roasted turkey, salads, and other seasonal delicacies.

Image by Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Embracing the Warmth: Chile’s Festive Finale

What a journey! Exploring the heart and soul of Christmas in Chile showcases the beautiful blend of traditions, both old and new. The customs, the food, the vibrant festivities – it’s a mesmerizing experience that captures the essence of Chilean culture.

Conclusion: If you’re intrigued by all things Chile and wish to delve deeper into its linguistic and cultural richness, SpanishVIP is your gateway. Experience the joy of learning with our Dedicated Teachers and find the support you need with our Student Success Advisors. Dive in with a free 1:1 class class or indulge in a full week of free group classes. Let’s celebrate learning together!

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