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Church-goers Roller-skate to Christmas Mass in Caracas, Venezuela

First Posted: Dec 17, 2013 12:22 PM EST

Despite Venezuelans facing a tough economic crisis, with shortages and price hikes putting a damper on the holiday season, they have a fun tradition that might bring back some Christmas cheer during difficult times -- and it involves roller skates.

In the Venezuelan capital Caracas, it is customary for the entire city to roller-skate to early morning Christmas Mass.

According to MSN, "vehicular access to the city is blocked off in many areas before 8 a.m. to allow this unconventional commute to take place, and the night before, children will tie one end of string to their big toe and hang the other out of the window -- allowing the passing roller skaters to offer a friendly tug as they pass in the morning." 

"Every year, Father Casanova [yes, his real name and no, he didn't look the part] would get on his high holy horse and make us out to be the worst of the worst for doing so [for roller-skating to Mass]. We would take shoes along for the 'ride,' and take them off once inside, but we always made certain to skate down the aisle first, just to rile up the priest," a Venezuelan named Roberto N. said. "In my neighborhood we would block off the street one night, and everyone would go roller-skating, young and not so young. Many would open their homes and have coffee and hot chocolate, the arepitas dulces de anis and even the first hallacas of the season on hand for any who walked up."

What started this Venezuela tradition?

In Venezuela, religious celebrations for Christmas kick off on Dec. 16. This day is marked with mass services that churches hold in the morning, and these masses are celebrated every day until Dec.24 -- these masses are called Misas de Aguinaldo.

"It's also on these days that Venezuelans light firecrackers and ring bells in the wee hours of the morning to wake worshipers up and get them ready for mass," according to Hispanic Culture Online. "The most devout of Venezuelans make sure they attend all the masses and also observe the carol services. The environment fills with gaitas and Christmas music everywhere."

The aforementioned tradition of roller-skating to mass services "is pretty peculiar for celebrating Christmas in Venezuela." 

In addition to street closings until 8 a.m., "children are put to bed earlier than usual to give them enough strength for getting up early to attend mass the next day," Hispanic Culture Online adds. "At the end of the mass, people go out and eat tostados and drink coffee."

On Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, Venezuelans celebrate Nochebuena, which is seen as more important than Christmas day itself. "The midnight mass that's held on this night called Misa de Gallo. The whole family attends this service and they go home to sit and enjoy a huge fancy dinner.

"Families gather not only to eat but also to thank Jesus for this special Christmas night, La Navidad. Beforehand families get together to prepare traditional Christmas dishes."

Enjoy a video about Navidad Venezolana:

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