Christmas is a time of celebration all over the world. Every country has its own unique traditions, but few are as festive as those in Latin America. From savory tamales to sweet Natillas de Leche, these holiday dishes will bring warmth and cheer to your home. Let’s explore some of the signature Latin American Christmas dinner traditions.
Latin American Christmas dinner Traditions
For starters, people in Latin America typically celebrate Christmas with a barbecue. Families and friends get together to cook their favorite foods on the grill and enjoy each other’s company. Another popular tradition is giving gifts on Christmas Eve. Children often wait up until midnight to see if Santa Claus has brought them what they wanted! And finally, no Christmas celebration would be complete without music and dancing. People gather together to listen to carols and traditional Latin American music, and dance the night away!
Popular Savory Dishes
Venezuela’s classic dish, Pan de Jamon, is a staple at any Venezuelan Christmas dinner. This savory rolled bread is stuffed with ham, raisins, and olives and then baked to a golden brown. The sweetness of the raisins pairs perfectly with the saltiness of the olives amidst the buttery softness of the fresh bread. See recipe
We couldn’t write about Latin American Christmas dinner traditions without looking at Cuba. The roasted pig is a huge part of Cuban holidays. Families purchase a whole pig to roast in a Caja China roasting box at home. These succulent pigs are paired with rice, beans, and yucca for the perfect Christmas dinner.
Another popular dish in Latin America is Mexican Tamales. Tamales are an ancient food that predates Spanish colonization in Latin America. They are comprised of corn masa dough stuffed with various fillings (such as beef or pork) and then wrapped up in corn husks or banana leaves for steaming. The preparation is quite labor intensive, so usually, the whole family gets involved in making them! Families traditionally serve tamales at midnight on Christmas Eve in Mexico; each person receives one large tamale or two small ones. See recipe
Natillas de Leche is a favorite dessert from many countries in Latin America; it’s especially popular during Christmas time. This creamy custard is made by combining milk, egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla extract over low heat until it thickens into a smooth pudding-like consistency. People often garnish it with coconut flakes or ground cinnamon before serving. See recipe
Ponche Navideño is a warm drink made with rum-soaked fruits such as prunes and apples simmered in piloncillo syrup (Mexican unrefined cane sugar). The mixture is combined with tejocotes (small Mexican fruits), guavas, oranges, and cloves and is served hot. This traditional drink symbolizes unity among friends and families during this special time of year! See recipe
Finally, no Latin American Christmas dinner would be complete without a sweet treat like Brazilian Brigadeiros. These chocolate fudge balls are made from condensed milk cooked with cocoa powder until thick and creamy before rolling into bite-sized balls and coating them in chocolate sprinkles. Brigadeiros are simple to make but always a hit at any holiday gathering! See recipe
Bringing these Latin American Christmas dinner traditions to your own table will add some festive flair to your holiday celebrations this year! Put your own spin on these traditional recipes by adding unique flavors or ingredients from your local area—or just follow a recipe for an authentic taste of Latin American cuisine! No matter how you choose to serve them up, these dishes will definitely have your guests asking for seconds.