Peru is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, which means Christmas traditions vary drastically from region to region.
In Lima, where I grew up, we start Christmas in the early evening of 24 December, when people brave the awful traffic to visit relatives and close friends. Around 10pm, you get home and have the Christmas dinner – marinated turkey or suckling pig, served with salads, flavoured rice, champagne, pisco sour, hot chocolate and panetón, or panettone. Just before midnight, everyone heads off to church for what is called the Misa Del Gallo, or The Cockerel’s Mass. After that they go home, wake up the smaller kids for midnight, toast Christmas with a pisco sour and open all the presents together.
A few hours down the road, in Ica, the predominantly Afro-Peruvian community celebrates what they call the ‘Black Christmas’. Children and adults dance the zapateo to percussion and native instruments, and key dishes include arroz con pato (duck with rice) and steel drum-smoked pork with panéton.
Near Lake Titicaca, in Puno, some families read the coca leaves to see what tomorrow brings, while in Cusco Christmas carols are sung both in the native Quechua language and Spanish. Andean huayno music is played while families gather together to eat pachamanca, guinea pig or suckling pig.
In Iquitos City in the Amazon jungle, Christmas dinner features ingredients like plantain and the carachama fish, and the bird is a roasted wild chicken marinated with a local chilli and soya sauce. This is served with juanes – similar to the more familiar tamales.
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