Pretty lights, presents, and a ton of snow! Most of us probably visualize this when we think of Christmas. Different countries, however, have their own styles of celebrating this exciting festival.
If you’re a traveler and love celebrating Christmas, you must visit Paraguay during this time.
How does Paraguay celebrate Christmas? Christmas in Paraguay is mainly about spending time together as a family and reflecting on Christ’s teachings. Paraguay celebrates Christmas with a focus on the religious essence of the festival. People prepare the nativity scene in Churches, and at homes, they set off fireworks, and they prepare delectable dishes at home. To have an authentic Paraguayan Christmas experience, you might want to stay with a native.
Let’s take a closer look at Paraguay’s Christmas festivities. We’ll first look at how the Paraguayan culture is inclined towards the religious aspects of Christmas. After that, we’ll see how people prepare the country’s living nativity scene and what the midnight celebrations are like on Christmas Eve. We’ll then take a look at the gifting custom here. Lastly, we’ll see how Paraguayans cool off during summers and impressive churches to visit here.
Before we proceed, you must keep in mind that December in Paraguay is the summer season. The average temperature hovers around 90.1°F. Make sure to pack loose clothes and check out these reflective sunglasses from WearMe Pro to keep the sun out of your eyes.
Celebrate Christmas in Paraguay by Immersing in Christ
Paraguay truly immerses itself in the essence of Christ during Christmas. You’ll find all the churches beautifully decked up with lights and vibrant Christmas decorations. Even the parks and the various town squares are adorned with massive stars and lights. Since it’s summer, you’ll find plenty of bright-colored flowers blooming.
Unlike other places, Paraguay hasn’t adopted too many of the typical Christmas elements- like the snow, sleighs, and Christmas tree. The country has instead cultivated national traditions and incorporated those elements. You’ll see this in the nativity scenes where they represent Christ’s birth using the national elements of Paraguay.
Pesebre Casero- Nativity Scenes Prepared at Home
Families in Paraguay begin preparing the nativity scene from the first week of December. These homemade nativity scenes are called Pesebre Casero. The entire family takes part in the preparations, and it is lovely seeing their involvement. Small or elaborate, you’ll be sure to find a nativity scene in every home here. Each family has its own way of creating the nativity scene. Take a look at the video below to see how intricate these creations can get.
The nativity scene is essential for Christmas in Paraguay because people believe that the nativity scene protects their families from harm. They also have a tradition which isn’t found anywhere else in the world. Before Christmas, people take large boards and place mud on them. Then, they plant rice seeds in the mud and let them sprout. Finally, they arrange the nativity figurines on top of the boards.
You’ll find the scent of the coconut blossom stretching across the land during this time. The coconut blossom is long and full of tiny yellow seeds that are shedding. This flower has a beautiful fragrance, making it one of the most in-demand products during the Christmas season.
Another flower used extensively during Christmas in Paraguay is the caraguata flower. It’s red, and people use it to decorate their pesebre.
What’s unique about the Paraguayan Christmas is that it’s focused more on Christ’s birth and his teachings. Across the world, gift-giving appears to take the center stage during Christmas. But in Paraguay, giving gifts isn’t the main highlight of Christmas. It’s more about spending quality time with your family and immersing yourself in the life of Christ and his teachings.
There’s also the Pesebre vivienta, which is the nativity play prepared in Churches. These displays are sure to bring back memories from school when children would perform the nativity scene.
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Midnight Christmas Celebration in Paraguay!
In Paraguay, it’s a tradition for everyone to stay up until midnight on Christmas Eve. People spend time with their families and visit other people to see their homemade nativity scenes. Children also carry gifts for the baby Jesus.
Once the church bells begin to ring, people proceed to the church at midnight for the La Misa Del Gallo or the Mass of the Rooster.
The Christmas feast starts after everyone returns to their homes from Mass. It’s called the Noche Buena meal- the midnight Christmas Eve meal. During this time, people consume plenty of the following foods:
- Chipa guasu- a cake made with Paraguayan cheese, corn grains, and onions.
- Asado- a barbecue where pork, chicken, beef, morcilla, and chorizo are cooked on a grill or an open fire.
- Terere- a bitter tea prepared with the same type of leaves used to brew the herbal tea known as yerba mate.
- Clerico- this is a drink similar to sangria. It’s prepared by peeling all the fruits, dicing them, and then squeezing the juice out. This is then mixed with soda or wine and left to marinate for a couple of hours. Some of the fruits used in Clerico are apples, pears, peaches, pineapples, purple and green grapes, and plums.
- Pan Dulce- this means sweet bread. It’s a loaf of sweet spongy bread that has a tinge of whisky added to it. Other ingredients include colored fruits, raisins, flavored gelatin pieces, and chocolate at times.
- Fruit salads
After the feast, the family lights candles to their pesebre and spend time admiring it.
The Three Wise Men Bring Presents
Along with bringing presents for baby Jesus during Christmas in Paraguay, children write letters to the wise men thanking them for the baby. In those letters, they also mention their wishes for the coming year.
After Christmas, families continue to keep the pesebre or the nativity scenes outside their homes. Kids then leave their shoes in front of the setup. This is so that on January 6th, the feast of the Epiphany, the three wise men would leave gifts for the children in front of the pesebre.
It’s a delightful experience seeing the excited children scurry and find their gifts. It’s a tradition to give gifts to children during Christmas time. Adults, however, aren’t required to exchange gifts.
Take a Dip to Cool Off
Christmas time in Paraguay is one of the hottest months of the year. You’ll find plenty of people heading to the river to swim and beat the heat. You could do the same by heading to the Paraguay River.
Alternatively, you could also visit the Laguna Blanca, which is an ecological attraction in Paraguay. This lake has clear transparent water that makes it apt for swimming and diving. Laguna Blanca is a few hours away from Asunción, the capital city, so you’d have to plan in advance to visit it.
If you’re planning to take a swim during Christmas time, make sure to carry water-resistant sunscreen from EltaMD with you.
Church of Miracles
Paraguay has a rich catholic tradition because Jesuits began establishing missions here from the early 16th century. The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Miracles or Caacupé Cathedral is a famous catholic church in Paraguay.
There’s an intriguing story from the 16th century about a sculptor preparing a statue after promising Mother Mary to do so. Later on, a flood wiped everything out in that area, but locals found the sculpture miraculously floating in a lake.
This statue had been in many different churches, but it now sits at the Caacupé Cathedral. Many miracles have been reported at this Basilica. You must visit it if you’re in Paraguay during Christmas.
Paraguay’s Christmas traditions are unique, and you’ll enjoy these celebrations that are steeped in Christ’s teachings. Christmas in Paraguay is truly a time of togetherness and love, as you’ll see in all the activities people partake in during this festive season.
You’ll have a lovely experience learning to set up a homemade nativity scene and being part of the elaborate midnight Christmas Eve celebrations. The foods prepared during this season are delectable, and you’ll have a terrific time trying out all these dishes.
Since it’s summer, you’ll not have to dress warmly, and you could even go for a swim. Lastly, you could visit the churches here and explore the rich catholic tradition of the country.