Nochebuena: A Look Into the Latine Christmas


Isabella Hewitt, Multimedia Photo Editor

Nochebuena, meaning “good night” is one of the most important holiday traditions for Spanish-influenced families as it brings family together while celebrating life. Nochebuena has been a part of Latino culture since the 16th century, as Latino families gather on the night of Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. 

This night consists of large feasts where many gather to eat foods of Latino culture like Lechón Asado (pork); paleta, the piece of pork typical for Cuban culture; Cordero (lamb); Hallacas (pronounced A-ya-kas) a tamale made with corn dough, stuffed with beef, pork, or chicken and other ingredients such as raisins, capers, and olives. Hallacas are typically seen in Venezuelan culture; pasteles, a Puerto Rican delicacy and multiple other dishes. 

The cooking of Lechon Asado serves as one of the most important tasks of the night, where all family members must help prepare for the roasting of the pork. Roasted in a wooden box called the Caja China, Lechon Asado becomes the main course of the dinner. 

Another important tradition is the drinking of Coquito or Ponche Crema. This beverage usually contains alcohol, but many make a non-alcoholic version for underage family members. These drinks serve as the special toast of the year where families may discuss their wishes for the year and other family desires. 

Other Nochebuena festivities celebrated include Villancicos, where Latin families gather to sing Christmas carols together before Midnight Mass. Midnight Mass, known as Misa de Gallo, is where families go to midnight mass at church for prayer. The nativity scene, another must for Latino families, is where the youngest of the family traditionally uncovers baby Jesus from the household nativity set. Times of this tradition vary between the time after dinner and midnight. 

In Filipino culture, Nochebuena is very prominent, as they feast on delicious cuisines such as Paella, Chicken Galantine, Filipino-style fruit salad and Fruitcake. They also partake in Midnight Mass.