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An Expat Talks about Christmas in Santiago, Chile, Report 25666 | Expat Exchange
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Christmas in Santiago, Chile

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


How long have you lived there?

1 year

If locals celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah where you are living now, how is it celebrated differently?

Christmas is a manic mix of end of school year, summer vacation and Christmas holiday all rolled up into one great big frenzy. The holidays decorations are up early here (some starting in October) and speed up through November. There is no Thanksgiving speed-bump to keep the holiday in check. The focus for Christmas is mostly religious (Chile being predominantly a Catholic country). However,the malls all entice you to buy more.

Household decorations appear to be only the Christmas tree. Decking out the halls and household seems to be left to the high end hotels. Some districts put on holiday events (Las Condes offered a light show with holiday music).

Gift wrapped presents are not a big deal here. People purchase their items from the stores. The vendors will put a bow on the store bag and call it wrapped. Store bags may have some holiday motif and come with a seal to keep their contents a secret. Some stores are now offering gift wrapping as we know it in the USA. But you will be hard pressed to find "Hallmark" quality or quantity of wrapping paper.

The main attraction in the home is the creche or "pesebre" with the baby Jesus missing from the manger until midnight Christmas Eve. Families will have holiday meals. Frozen turkey is beginning to become popular, but given it's summer many choose cold plates of meat, or asados/barbeques. The holiday drink is cola de mono, made with aguardiente, sugar, milk, coffee and spiced with cloves, cinnamon and orange zest. As midnight arrives the families may attend midnight mass. When they return the baby Jesus is placed in his spot and the presents are ripped opened.

Santiago is at its quietest during this time as many families escape for the beach to cool off and begin summer vacations.

Do you mix your own traditions with those of your expat location? If so, describe.

I brought all my holiday decorations with us and have our home and halls decked out as the traditional song suggests. The decorations found in the Chilean stores are generally made of plastic and are not as elegant or diverse as those found in Europe or the USA.

While I enjoy baking for the holidays it's rather difficult in the summer heat. Besides, who wants to stuff their mouth when they are facing stuffing their bottoms into a swimsuit soon after?

What is your favorite thing about celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah in your overseas location?

I love adding new traditions to ours and I enjoy adding a special remembrance to our family Christmas tree to recall all the places and events in our lives. Having family near is always special. And for those who cannot be with us we call or Skype them.

Beside family and friends, what do you miss from home during the holidays?

I DON'T MISS the snow and hassles it causes in travel. Some of the favorite foods that recall our home is missed (we brought in a can of pumpkin for pumpkin pie).

How is New Year's typically celebrated in your expat location?

New Year's is celebrated with a flourish of food, fun, dancing and fireworks.

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