Christmas in Guatemala a Celebration, one of the wonderful things about moving to another country, in my case Guatemala, is learning and experiencing the culture and traditions. This upcoming Christmas season marks my fifth year in Guatemala. Guatemala is a mystical country with deep religious and spiritual rituals that blur and intersect the boundaries of culture, religion, and tradition. The Maya culture and the predominant Roman Catholic Church have largely shaped the Guatemalan customs and culture.
Christmas in Guatemala revolves much more around the religious aspect of the holiday as opposed to revolving around the commercial side as it does in the United States.
Christmas in Guatemala a Celebration
Christmas, or Navidad, is one of the most beloved holidays in Guatemala and experiencing the culture and celebration during Christmas is both captivating and intriguing. Christmas is spread out across a period of about three weeks beginning on December 7th with the celebration of Dia de Diablo (Burning of the Devil). This is a symbolic cleansing ceremony where trash and a symbolic devil are burned to get rid bad spirits and negative thoughts.
December 12th marks Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe (Feast of Our Lady Guadalupe). This is a celebration where children dress in typical clothing and pay homage to the Virgen de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe).
In many of the towns throughout Guatemala during the nine days before Christmas, December 16th-24th, small processions called Las Posadas are held. It’s sort of a mini-religious procession which reenacts Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem, as they sought shelter.
On December 21st Dia del Santo Tomas (Feast of Saint Thomas) is celebrated. In Guatemala the Feast of Saint Thomas is an adaptation of the Mayan flying men dance.
And then there is the actual Navidad celebration which occurs at midnight on December 24th, not the 25th. I have had the unique opportunity to participate in and observe this Guatemalan Christmas tradition many times. At exactly midnight, firecrackers, fireworks, exploding sky rockets, sticks of dynamite, and for lack of a better word, mini-bombs are set off. Bombas, as they are referred to, are part of the fabric of celebrations in Guatemala—no celebration seems to be complete without them.
The skies become alive with color, all the more enhanced by the beautiful backdrop of the volcanoes and mountains surrounding Lake Atitlán. We usually sit on our deck on the side of a mountain and we are able to see the pyrotechnics going off in most of the villages surrounding the lake.
There is truly nothing like watching multiple fireworks shows lighting up the volcanoes and mountains. The colors shimmer and reflect off the water of Lake Atitlán as the booms echo off the walls of the canyon. The echo seem to last forever. It is truly captivating in both site and sound.
RELATED ARTICLE: Guatemala Packing List For Travel
Traditional Guatemalan Christmas food is also a highlight of the season for me. Christmas morning usually brings wonderful surprises in the form of food. Last year three different indigenous families stopped by our home to drop off Paches and Christmas tamales.
Paches are a special kind of tamale made with potato dough instead of maize and wrapped in banana leaves. These tamales are a traditional Christmas treat and without a doubt, they are the best tamales I have ever eaten.
Celebrating Christmas in Guatemala, here’s to appreciating and loving past Christmas traditions and the excitement and energy that come from learning and making meaningful new traditions.
About Lake Atitlan Tours
We started our Lake Atitlan Tour business with the belief that other travelers share our desire to experience authentic adventures by immersing ourselves in the life of a region, exploring hidden corners, and partaking and appreciating local culture. Our tours, at their heart, are a way of connecting more authentically with the world.
For more information on Celebrating Christmas in Guatemala or Lake Atitlan Tours visit Lake Atitlan Tours.