Christmas In South America is predominantly a religious occassion. The Christmas celebrations here are inspired mainly from Roman Catholic traditions.
The focus of the celebrations here is the "Presepio" (manger). In every home, the Nativity Scene is beautifully constructed and displayed. Often an entire room is devoted to it. A typical Nativity Scene includes the baby Jesus in his manger at Bethlehem, with other tiny figures of Joseph, Mary and other shepherds. An elaborate background is also constructed with a beautiful mountain landscape and the Three Wise Men crossing the desert on their camels.
The Christmas traditions of South Americans bear the imprint of their predecessors, the Europeans and Native Americans, as also the increasing influence of American culture. The customs vary in different parts of the continent.
In Chile, the southwestern nation of South America, the festivities are church and family oriented. Devout Chilean Catholics observe the "Novena", nine days of prayer and fasting before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, they attend the "Misa del Gallo" (Midnight Mass) with family members and thereupon, relish a sumptuous Christmas Eve dinner consisting of turkey and other delicious dishes of salads, seafood, and olives. Deserts always include Pan de Pascua, a sweet Christmas bread, along with fruit, cake and cookies. Here Santa Clause is known as "Viejo Pascuero"(Easter Old Man), who is believed to drop presents through the window.
In Argentina, Christmas is the time for family gatherings. Extended members of individual families come together on Christmas Eve and enjoy a lip-smacking Christmas dinner. Dinner here comprises mainly of pork, turkey and other delectable dishes accompanied by drinks like cider, beer, and juice. Many families attend the Midnight Mass in local churches. At midnight, adults join in the toast ceremony and then dance together while kids go out to see the fireworks ushering in Christmas Day. After this elder people pass the night in chatting and playing games while children go to bed but not before opening the presents gathered under the Christmas tree.
In Brazil, Christmas traditions are similar to USA or UK. A traditional Christmas Dinner menu in the country consists of chicken, turkey, ham, rice, salad, pork, fresh and dried fruits, often with beer. Those less fortunate satisfy themselves with just chicken and rice. Children believe in "Papai Noel" as the bringer of their presents.