Discover Latino Holiday Traditions

Many Latino holiday customs are religious-based.

November 12, 2010

The holidays are approaching and that means it's time for las posadas, el Niño Dios, and el día de los reyes magos.

Because Latinos are largely Christian and Catholic, many of their customs and traditions are religious-based, especially around the holidays.

Read on to learn more about Latino holiday customs and see if these traditions are being celebrated in your community.

Las Posadas

What are las posadas? In Spanish, posada means “inn” or “shelter.”

Las posadas are traditional religious celebrations enacting Mary and Joseph’s journey to find shelter before baby Jesus was born.

These celebrations take place throughout Latin America during the holiday season and often involve participation from entire towns, neighborhoods, and churches.

Often, this includes role-playing, festive decorations, food, and piñatas. Some Latino communities have carried on this tradition in the U.S., and may have versions of las posadas taking place in collaboration with local churches.

El Niño Dios

El Niño Dios means “baby Jesus” and is a term frequently heard around the holidays. To put it into perspective, it’s as popular as saying Santa Claus in the U.S.

While Santa Claus has made his way to many Latin American households these days, it’s traditional to display a nativity set in a Christian Latino household and to expect gifts from El Niño Dios rather than Santa Claus.

Typically, children open their gifts at midnight on December 24, as opposed to the common U.S. tradition of opening them on Christmas morning.

El Día de los Reyes Magos

New Year's celebrations don’t mark the end of holiday festivities in Latino households. El Día de los Reyes Magos, Three Kings Day, is celebrated on January 6 and celebrates the arrival of the three kings to greet the newly born baby Jesus.

On this day, many Latin American communities celebrate with parades and gift-giving.

If children didn't receive anything from El Niño Dios on Christmas, they might still have a chance to receive a gift from los Reyes Magos.

MIRIAM DE DIOS is vice president of Coopera Consulting, Des Moines, Iowa. Contact her at 866-518-0214.