Christmas is an almost two-week affair in Bolivia, running from Christmas Eve till Epiphany on 6 January. A public holiday is observed each year on 25 December.
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Most of the population of Bolivia is Catholic, so the faithful attend “Mass of the Rooster”, as it’s called in Bolivia, on Christmas Eve evening. At the stroke of midnight, it’s traditional to set off firecrackers.
Then families head home to enjoy Christmas dinner together very late at night. A meat stew called “picana” is often eaten, along with corn and potatoes and other foods. After dinner, people sometimes exchange gifts, but for most, that’s not really part of the tradition. Most exchange gifts on Epiphany instead because that’s the day the Three Wise Men are thought to have come and given gifts to Baby Jesus.
Putting up a nativity scene in your home and at one’s church is a major tradition in Bolivia. Christmas trees are not nearly as central, though they are beginning to appear in major cities nowadays.
Unfortunately, many poor rural Bolivians can’t afford to even take Christmas off. But the government does mandate double or triple pay for the month of December, and many employers give workers a gift basket at year’s end.
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