guatemalan christmas

Christmas Traditions in Guatemala

Christmas traditions are as much a part of the geography and climate of a particular region as anything else. There is an abundance of unique Christmas traditions, and one that I find particularly fascinating is the Misa de Gallo that occurs in Guatemala.

What Does a Rooster Have to Do with Christmas?

The Misa de Gallo is actually translated as the Mass of the Rooster. Guatemala has many fascinating Christmas traditions, culminating in the Misa de Gallo. But before I elaborate on that, let me explain the events that lead up to this exciting culmination.

In Guatemala during the Christmas season, they include statues in daily processions. Statues of very popular saints are included in the processions, but the main emphasis is on God. After the procession, the statues are returned to the church.

The Rooster Crowed

At midnight on Christmas Eve, Guatemalans celebrate the Misa de Gallo. This mass is intended to honor a Guatemalan legend about a rooster who crowed at midnight when Christ was born.

Another big part of the Guatemalan Christmas celebration is its emphasis on the Nativity or manger scene, known as Nacimientos. On Christmas Eve, baby Jesus is added to the manger display.

A Bit More History

No lesson, no matter how brief, would be complete without understanding the history of the Guatemalan people. Modern-day Guatemalans are descendants of the Mayans. About 400 years ago the Mayans were converted to Christianity after they were conquered by the Spanish. Through the centuries, they’ve come to celebrate Christian holidays more than other Christian nations. On St. Thomas Day, for example, which occurs on December 21, they celebrate Palo Voladare. This is also called the flying pole dance and was actually a ritual that preceded their conversion to Christianity, but was adapted to St. Thomas Day. St. Thomas was one of Jesus’ twelve Apostles.

As you can see, the Christmas season in Guatemala is filled with celebrations not only on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day but throughout the entire month of December.

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