Christmas in Peru? What a great idea! Traveling over the holidays is the perfect way to create new traditions, and a New Year’s in Lima will be one for the books. You have the chance to connect with different customs and source inspiration for a great new year ahead. Some practices may seem familiar, while others pique your curiosity, striking the perfect balance so you can surrender to it all.
From mid-December, Lima goes into overdrive as preparations get underway for the big celebrations. Restaurants are overflowing, the traffic is beyond ebullient, and every corner of the city is alive and bustling. The anticipation in the atmosphere is palpable as Christmas approaches. And summer has just arrived, so it’s a great time to visit and plug into the capital’s energy.
While many countries celebrate Christmas on December 25th, in Peru, the 24th is the big day, also known as Nochebuena. Families gather in the evening to dine together and, at the stroke of midnight, embrace with a champagne toast and hot chocolate for the kids to receive Christmas. Fireworks abound as the clock strikes 12, and many head outside to catch the local displays in their neighborhoods.
Both Santa and baby Jesus arrive at midnight, one bearing gifts as the other takes his place in the cradle of nativity scenes. As most of the population is Catholic, many attend 10 PM mass, known as Misa de Gallo, before heading to a relative’s home for dinner and gifts. A typical Christmas dinner includes turkey, cold salads, apple sauce, and a legacy of the Italian influence, panettone, a sweet cake with dried fruits.
For visitors, things are a bit trickier. As the evening and nighttime activities are reserved for family time, many restaurants close after their lunch service on the 24th. Several places also have special menus for midday options and may not offer their regular a la carte service. Lunch is your best bet for eating a nice meal out on the 24th; for the evening and the 25th, you’ll want to possibly consider local hotels and square away any reservations and confirmations in advance.
The same can be said for New Year’s; you’ll want to coordinate your plans in advance. Most places will have special menus for December 31st, but for January 1st, your options will be much more limited. Like Christmas, New Year’s is celebrated at midnight (like anywhere), with a champagne toast, fireworks, and a couple of other more peculiar traditions.
For good luck, you can eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes twelve or wear yellow undergarments - very original. For abundance, you give and receive small bags of lentils. And for many more travels, some people even run around the block toting their suitcases. We’ll sign up for that last one.
Happy travels and happy holidays!
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