Christmas Salvadoran Style
As we know, Christmas is widely celebrated around the world, and each country and culture has its own way of celebrating it. Contrary to the Northern Hemisphere, summer is just kicking off in El Salvador. So, no big sweaters or covering layers; instead, it calls out for shorts, tan lines and fun firecracker sessions. Bright sunny days, clear skies are some characteristics that set up the ambience of a tropical Christmas season.
We could say that the season starts a few days into November; and for general knowledge, Thanksgiving is not a big celebration here, although some people do celebrate in the intimacy of their homes. So basically, Christmas lasts around 2 months here.
Christmas trees, Christmas lights and gifts remain the same as in the rest of the world, but an important highlight of the season is that it is still perceived as a celebration rooted in religion. So, it is very common that you’ll find nativity in almost every home you visit.
Probably, the most notorious difference is that the main party or meal is celebrated on December 24th – Christmas Eve. Some people start celebrating at lunch, but it is mainly during the night that the gathering takes place. Families dress up nicely and wait until midnight to hug each other Merry Christmas; and then they eat the feast that they have prepared during the day. Meanwhile, children are outside playing, running around or burning fireworks – yes, under an adult supervision!
Christmas Salvadoran Feast
Tables are filled with turkey or chicken, rice, mashed potatoes, different kinds of salads among other options. ‘Panes con pavo’ or ‘panes con pollo’ (turkey breast or chicken breast sandwiches) is a very typical dish of the night. Imagine a generous piece of local bread cut in the middle in a way that you can stuff it with chicken, followed by escabeche (pickled carrots, onions, cauliflowers and bell pepper) and drizzled with salsa. The salsa is made by the matriarch of the family, and she is the only one that knows the ingredients to it – although the base of the sauce is “relajo” a mix of local spices and peppers. It has a thick consistency, and it is very flavorful. To top off your ‘pan con pollo’ you can add lettuce, tomato and radish if you’d like. For those who have a sweet tooth, ronpope – sweet rum based drink, and other goods follow the meal, like the quesadilla – a spongy sweet corn bread (our favorite is from Restaurante La Posada!).
Salvadorans dance the night away to Cumbia. On Christmas day, children wake up early and get to open Christmas gifts that Santa Claus has left under the tree.
It’s hard to give Christmas in El Salvador justice with just one blog post — instead, the best way to really experience for yourself is to visit in person! We hope you’ll consider spending your next Christmas in El Salvador — make it a tropical one! 🙂