Would you like to celebrate Christmas in Peru ? For those who want to get away, it is a great time to visit Peru. Christmas here is celebrated very differently to what you may experience in your home country.
Why celebrate Christmas in Peru?
Because Christmas in Peru is fascinating! While in the capital Lima, you will find that with all the shopping malls Christmas is becoming more and more commercial each year, here in Cusco Christmas is currently much less commercial than many of us are used to. Sadly a large part of that is due to the fact that a lot of people are poor. There certainly are many people who can and do buy Christmas presents for all and sundry but for many buying presents is not an option. Another factor is that Cusco does not presently have a shopping mall. The first one is due to open in just over a week though, so expect Christmas in Cusco to be changing fast soon.
Christmas in Cusco
The main event here in Cusco at Christmas is the Santuranticuy Festival held on the 24th December in the Plaza de Armas (the main square). The streets start filling up a few days before as people travel in from remote hilltop villages to sell things to make a bit of money so that they can buy some nicer food for their Christmas meal. When I say sell things, you will be surprised. Most of these hill people are selling twigs and bits of moss, that they have scavenged from the countryside and will sell for a few cents to the city dwellers to use in their nativity scenes.
These country folk, whole families with kids tagging along, are often to be seen sleeping in the archways for a few nights previous to the market on the 24th. Local charities offer handouts of hot chocolate and bread for which there are large queues. It puts our over commercialised Christmases into perspective.
On the 24th is Santuranticuy itself. The Plaza de Armas of Cusco is full to bursting. Makeshift market stands selling hand made toys, pencils carved from twigs and figures for the nativity scenes fill the centre of the square. Around the edge, those who came down from the hills crouch on the floor offering their meagre wares. And amongst it all, throngs of locals, coming to buy and to look. Cusco being Cusco there are of course a fair few tourists taking a look too or buying some great souvenirs.As darkness falls on the 24th everyone packs away and begins to head home to prepare.
Is the main Christmas celebration on the 24th or 25th?
The main event of Christmas in Peru is actually on the night of the 24th rather than the day of the 25th as in the US or UK. This is something fairly common to the Spanish speaking world. At about 10pm or 11pm people head to each other’s houses, usually within family. They prepare a meal which they will eat around midnight or as late as two in the morning in some houses. The meal varies, but often there is panettone , a kind of fruit cake, eaten with hot chocolate while the presents are opened. Yes you read correctly, the poor kids are expected to be awake at midnight on Christmas eve in Peru to open their presents. Father Christmas is not really that big a thing here, in many households he is not even mentioned. I tell you that in case you are wondering how he sneaks in and leaves the presents if everyone is awake.Then at about 2am comes the main meal.
What is the typical Peruvian food at Christmas?
Turkey seems to be the modern choice, though that is an imported American custom. However the way the turkey is prepared can be a bit different to the USA. Many families inject the turkey with Pisco, a local grape based spirit. Others inject red wine. Traditional stuffing is not used but often the cavity is stuffed with meats, chicken, sausages and beef. In a conversation today a friend told me about the flat above him where they were preparing the turkey with mustard and mayonnaise. Before it goes in the oven!
Basically meat and potatoes and vegetables are the order of the day. But more than likely the vegetables will be served cold. There is no Christmas pudding as such. But alcohol is always in order and many households continue into the early hours of the morning. Thus the 25th itself is a write off in most households and people just lounge around and do very little.
Will I be able to get Christmas dinner in Peru at a reasonable hour?
For those of you visiting and planning to spend Christmas in Peru, you do not have to worry about waiting up till 2am to eat your dinner. Many hotels include dinner on the night of the 24th as obligatory, while the local restaurants also offer some delicious Christmas meals. And you will be glad to know they serve it at a sensible hour!
Why not stay at home for Christmas?
Christmas and New Years offer a lot of holidays from work. In an age where many of us do not have enough holiday time, this is a great opportunity to get away. Remember those bank holidays also can be combined so that you use less of your precious holiday.
Many people like to get away from their home country. For some it is because they do not like the commercialism of Christmas, for others it is a religious feast that does not fit in with their religion. We have had customers that have lost family members recently and Christmas at home would hold too many memories for them, so they decide they would rather get away.
Is Machu Picchu open on Christmas day?
Some of the Cusco city sites are closed but for the archaeological sites around Cusco and the famous Machu Picchu, business is as usual. What could be more special than visiting Machu Picchu on Christmas day? For some trekkers perhaps a day on the Inca Trail could top that and you can guarantee your trekking crew will give you a Christmas in Peru to remember.
At Escaped to Latin America we can offer you a variety of Peru tours to make the most of Christmas in Peru, or any other Latin American country. While many places such as the Galapagos and Rio book out over the Christmas and New Year period, somewhere like Peru seems to always be able to accommodate those travellers who decide to book late. You may not get your first choice of hotel, but with so many nice hotels in Peru to choose from that is not really much of an issue.
For more information about Christmas in Peru, contact us now by filling out the form on the right hand side of this page. We look forward to helping you plan a Christmas to remember.