The Chilean Christmas celebrations are quite similar to the U.S. observance of the occassion, though the weather is quite unlike the temperature Americans experience during December. Naturally, Chileans have a really "warm" Christmas celebration as opposed to cold weather festivities in most Western nations.
The Chilean Christmas celebration is a spiritual affair and is held much in accordance with the true Christian way. Church services are held on a daily basis throughout the entire Christmas season but the actual holy observances begin from nine days before Christmas Day, when Chileans begin a special prayer service along with spiritual preparation known as "Novena" - a Roman Catholic ritual. For the entire nine-day period leading to Christmas, prayers are observed by every pious Christian in the country. A visit to the local churches are made, carols are sung and passages related to the nativity are also read from the Holy Bible. On Christmas Eve, Catholics attend the Midnight Mass followed by a sumptuous dinner with the extended members of their family. Christmas is a time for family reunions and many Chileans seize this opportunity to visit their relatives in distant places and be with them during the festive days.
Prepartions for Christmas start nearly a month prior to the actual festive day. Chileans love adorning their homes with brilliant lights and balloons on Christmas. The Christmas tree is set up one or two days before the festive day and decorated with tiny clay figures known as 'pesebre'. Elaborate scenes from the nativity are put up and clay/wooden figures are used to represent the Holy Family and other religious characters.
The Christmas festivities are incomplete without good food and a plethora of mouthwatering dishes form the items of the Christmas menu. The Christmas Eve dinner traditionally delicacies like "Azuela de ave" (a special chicken soup), "Pan de pasqua" (bread stuffed with candied fruit). "Rompon" and "Cola de Mono", a.k.a. Monkey's Tail are the customary drinks to have on Xmas Eve.
The Chilean version of Santa Clause, "Viejito Pascuero" (Old Man Christmas), is believed to visit every house in Chile on Christmas Eve, riding his sleigh pulled by flying reindeers. As per popular legend, he isa small-sized man who goes down through chimneys or enters through windows to leave goodies inside the stockings of good children and nice presents for them under the Xmas tree.
This is also the day when many people enjoy the nature. The warm climate makes it possible for most to take a break at the beaches, go on rock-climbing or surfing, or even making a short trip to the nearest holiday spots. Everyone wishes another 'Feliz Navidad' (meaning Merry Christmas) on this day!