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Nochebuena: Celebrations Start on Dec. 24 in Latin-American Households

First Posted: Dec 11, 2013 05:17 PM EST
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Nochebuena ("the Good Night"), more frequently called Christmas Eve, is a night of celebration within Latino households. While most Americans sit in anticipation of Christmas day, Latino celebrate early, gathering family and friends for a big dinner; an evening that also has plenty of music and gifts. From household to household traditions may vary, but generally the celebration that begins on the eve of Christmas bleeds into the next day, and Christmas morning is used as a time for rest.

Misa de Gallo (Midnight Mass) occurs on the eve of Christmas to commemorate the birth of Jesus, which took place at midnight. Many mass-goers attend service with a baby Jesus figurine so that it can be blessed before placing it back in their nativity. Misa de Gallo, which translates to Mass of Roosters, grew from a legend about a rooster who witnessed and announced the birth of Jesus to the world. It is now a mainstay tradition in many Latino households, and usually led by a feast.

"In Mexico, for example, dinner can include homemade tamales, atole, bacalao (cod) a la Vizcaina or romeritos en revoltijo (a dish made with Mexican greens) accompanied by buñuelos (small donuts) for dessert and ponche (punch) to toast," said Roxanne A. Soto of Denver Post. "In other Latin American countries, especially those in the Caribbean, the main dish is roast pork with rice and beans, pasteles (tamales) and different salads. Plus, it wouldn't be Christmas without Coquito, an alcoholic beverage made with coconut milk, condensed milk and white rum."

La Cena de Nochebuena or Christmas Eve dinner that precedes or follows mass, consists of main dishes that draw from countries of national origin, as well as personal preference. Turkey is also incorporated on the eve of Christmas, a tradition that was adopted from American customs; also, pork is usually present.

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