Top 5 Latino Christmas Food Traditions
By: Isabel Byfield
Christmas is just around the corner, and we all know Latinos like to celebrate it big during this time of the year. The richness of the ancestral Latino traditions are a mix of inherited colonial practices that have evolved with time, and food plays a key role in the celebration of these traditions. Unlike most countries, the Latino celebrations start on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24th) with the Noche Buena, a dinner celebration with family and friends – and of course, lots of food.
These are widely popular among Latin countries, especially Mexico and Central America. From sweet to savory tamales, rice, red, pork or just the plain corn dough, they are part of the Noche Buena fiesta, usually as the main dish. Other treats like Mexican hot chocolate are the perfect pairing for tamales, this combo is a staple of Mexican traditions.
Even though tamales take the center stage, other delicacies are part of the Fiesta – such as pozole, menudo, birria and atole. It’s certainly a feast of comfort food!
Lechon can be compared to the American turkey on Thanksgiving tradition, it’s a must have for many countries in Latin America during Christmas. Lechon is a baby suckling pig that’s been roasted for long hours and stuffed with rice and meat. Puerto Ricans accompany the lechon with arroz con gandules (pigeon peas), which is traditional for the meal.
In Colombia, it is common to see neighbors pitch in and buy a lechon to share, a tradition called “Marranada”. They cook the pork outside their homes in a BBQ style setting, while dancing, drinking and enjoying a good time together.
These deep fried pastries are popular in Colombia, Cuba and Mexico. Each recipe has its variations, but these treats are equally delicious. The Colombian version of bunuelos is a cheese dough made with corn starch that’s deep fried until golden brown. They are crunchy on the outside and cheesy-soft bread in the inside.
Natilla is the Spanish version of pudding. It’s a traditional dessert in almost every country. Different variations include coconut natilla and dulce de leche flavored natilla. It is made from milk and cornstarch, but variations include natilla made with grounded corn as well.
Ponche is the Latino eggnog, usually made with a combination of egg yolk, milk and white rum. Each country does a little variation of this recipe. One of the most famous variations is the Puerto Rican coquito, which is made with coconut, rum, milk and spices.