This blog post is part of our ‘Multicultural Holiday Traditions’ series. Translators submitted their favorite holiday traditions and we are elated to share them all with you! The first post of the series can be found here and links to all the posts can be found at the bottom of this article. The following article and corresponding photos are courtesy of the Pérez Fonseca Family. Thank you for sharing!
We are a Venezuelan family living in Peru for over two years now. We have many Christmas traditions. For us our “Pesebre” is the most important one. Traditional Pesebres are a representation of Lord Jesus’ birth. They include the main characters Baby Jesus, Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph accompanied by the mule and the ox. There are also characters such as the Three Wise Men, the Angel, the shepherds, farm animals and houses.
This year, my family and I made our own small “Pesebre” using Peruvian characters with typical dresses from the South of Peru, the Titicaca Lake. Instead of the mule and the ox, there is a “llama” and an “alpaca”, native animals from the Peruvian mountains. We also surrounded the main characters with the colors of our beloved Venezuelan flag: yellow, blue and red.
The crib is still empty; we put Baby Jesus at 12:00 AM on December 24th, just after midnight, while singing Christmas carols. We also have a pretty particular family tradition, for Baby Jesus to be cozier we add straw strands starting four weeks before Christmas. Each member of our family adds a daily strand after doing a good anonymous action. That keeps us aware and prepared for what we are waiting for, the birth of our Lord.
Thank you to the Pérez Fonseca Family for sharing this tradition with us! My mom’s side of the family is from Puerto Rico and we always had a manger underneath our Christmas tree. I used to love setting the scene up, from the Three Wise Men to the animals and of course, Mary and Joseph. We would wait until Christmas Day to place baby Jesus in the crib.
The Three Wise Men, or Three Kings, are very important in Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic, cultures. The story goes that The Three Kings arrived roughly a week after Jesus was born. Presently, January 6th is renowned as Three Kings Day, the big holiday to close out the holiday season.
To celebrate, children will put our water, hay, grass, and carrots outside their door for the camels that the Kings ride. On the morning of January 6th, children are surprised with 3 more gifts – one from each King! I remember going to the kitchen and seeing all the treats for the camels clearly have been “eaten” and getting so excited and surprised that The Three Kings came all the way to Connecticut from Puerto Rico. In my childhood mind and imagination, I thought it was something that was strictly Puerto Rican but as I’ve grown, I’ve learned that many other cultures celebrate, too.
It truly is a magical time of year!