Tag Archives: traditions

Let’s Call it a Year

Chilean New Years Traditions © M Snook T 2010Nope, 2011 hasn’t been my favorite year, but I’m putting it all behind me and gearing up for what promises to be a pretty interesting 2012.

Nope, I’m not going to pour out my thoughts on the past 364 days (have pretty much done that already, don’t you think?).

Nope, not going to spill my resolutions for what is to come (would rather just do that as we go along rather than have to explain why I didn’t do this or that after all).

But what I AM going to do:

Here’s Wishing you all One Heck of a Great New Year, and as a bonus, re-share some Chilean tips for improving your shots for 2012:

9 Chilean Traditions for a Happy New Year

So, whether you’re watching fireworks at the beach, smooching your sweetie on the dance floor, or watching the ball drop on TV tonight, I’ll be raising a glass of sparkly and saying:

Cheers! ¡Salud! Saude! Prosit! L’chaim! Chin Chin! Kampai! Proost! Salute! Slainte! and Saha!

May 2012 be your best year yet!!


9 Chilean Traditions for a Happy New Year

Chilean New Years Traditions © M Snook T 2010While my family in the northern hemisphere is either hunkering down for a quiet evening at home or trying to figure out how to combine New Years’ finery with boots and gloves and snow shovels and ice scrapers, I am happy to report that here in Santiago the sun is shining, it’s 27º (Celsius! that’s 80ºF to the rest of you) at 6:30 in the evening, and we have a nice night ahead with family and friends, complete with a bit of fireworks at midnight.

For more on typical Chilean New Year’s celebrations see Happy New Year a la Chilena, but read on to brush up on the fun list of traditions (some might cal them superstitions, but let’s not go there)… Continue reading

Happy New Year! a la Chilena

Chilean New Year comes in mid-summer, which makes it great for evening activities outdoors, such as barbecues, fireworks, and long conversations into the night… Along with some fun traditions to bring luck, love, and money into the New Year!

Chilean New Year comes in mid-summer, which makes it great for evening activities outdoors, such as barbecues, fireworks, and long conversations into the night…Along with some fun traditions to bring luck, love, and money into the New Year!

Fireworks decorations in Santiago

Fireworks decorations and light-wrapped palms in Santiago

I’ve written (ok, complained) about missing snow at Christmas, but New Year’s in the summer is something entirely different! Wonderful, in fact!

New Year’s is not the big drinking holiday it is in the States (Chileans save that for Independence Day). It tends to have 2 parts: the family celebration lasts til midnight, then people disperse to celebrate with friends until dawn.
Sure there are the big  and raucous fiestas at hotels and events centers, with party hats and dancing, but our own circle of family and friends prefer a quieter, more traditional celebration. We begin with a late dinner with the in-laws (with no particular food traditions), then turn on the TV just before 12 to watch the countdown… Santiago’s “Times Square” is the Entel Tower in the city center, where thousands of people gather hours before to watch the spectacular fireworks display at midnight.

5-4-3-2-1 ¡Feliz Año! And big hugs all around… best wishes for a new year… a little more chit-chat and then the streets fill with people rushing off to their parties with friends. Santiago’s streets at 12:30-1:00AM on New Year’s Eve are like any workday traffic jam! Parents of teenagers deliver their kids to various houses and parties with strict orders to be home by dawn. My daughter once spent the night with a friend whose mother told the girls: “You’re 16, so be home by 6:00; your brother is 17, so be home by 7; your sister, at 18, must be home by 8:00” (there are definite advantages to being a teenager in Chile!).

We head off to friends who always host their entire family for dinner on the patio. After another round of hugs–¡Feliz Año Compadre! ¡Que sea un buenísimo año Comadre! (In fact, this will go on we’re on for the next couple weeks). And we mingle over after dinner drinks, coffee, and lively conversations and debates long into the night until we finally call it a night about 3AM.

Yep, I really like the Chilean version of New Year… Sure beats hanging out with drunks in bars and then trying to stay out of their way as they drive home on icy streets in an Upstate New York blizzard!

Chilean New Year’s Traditions:

Holiday greeting cards usually wish people a Prosperous New Year, and there are many New Years Eve traditions associated with attracting wealth in the coming year.

Lucrative Lentils: eating lentils on New Year’s Eve ensures prosperity in the coming year.

12 Grapes: people eat a dozen grapes–one for each month of the year–to bring good economic fortune… hmmm- with the dour predictions for 2009, maybe we should have doubled the prescription!

Golden Toasts: not bread–place a gold ring in your bubbly for a prosperous new year… unless of course you choke on it and start the year with a large hospital bill!

Wheat for Abundance: ribbon-wrapped sprigs of wheat are commonly sold on the streets of Santiago at Christmas time and some people distribute them to each guest at midnight on New Year’s Eve to bring abundance.

Shoe Money: stick a luca (a $1000 peso bill) in your shoe before midnight and it will multiply in the coming year (it may even get a better rate than the banks do these days!)

But it’s not all about money, of course. Love, luck, and travel are also high on the wish list!

Yellow undies: looking to add some romance to your life? Be sure to wear your yellow panties on New Year’s Eve!

Undies inside out: clothes horses turn their underwear inside out to ensure a well-stocked closet in the coming year… make them yellow and get a “twofer” (would that be a well-dressed lover? Or maybe your well-dressed lover comes out of the closet?). Some people say they should be turned right-side-out after midnight for happiness. Others say this works best if the underwear is a gift.

Lugging the Luggage: feeling a bit of wanderlust? Make your dreams come true by taking your favorite suitcase for a walk around the block…

Burning the bad: this fun and even emotional ceremony requires tying a life-sized stuffed dummy to a stake and shortly after midnight, all the participants write something they want to change in the coming year, attach it to the dummy, which is then set it on fire. The bad things in your life go up in flames!

Christmas a la Chilena

Christmas is over, finally… and thankfully. A northern gringa’s admittedly biased account of 15 sweltering Christmases in Chile.

Para Español, usa la herramienta de traducción a la derecha…

Caveat lector: I’m a northern gringa with dreams of a white Christmas who has spent the past 15 holiday seasons deep in the southern hemisphere. I admit it: I long to hear the crunch of the new fallen snow beneath my feet, the whizzing whirling tires of cars stuck in a drift, and the muted muffled hum of traffic on unplowed snow. I miss that oddly bright light that filters through my eyelids as I wake the morning after a heavy midnight

Christmas in Providencia

Christmas in Providencia

snowfall, and I yearn for the dazzling sparkle of snowflakes caught in the glow of the streetlights. I miss frosty toes and heavy boots and hand-knit mittens and the smell of wet wool and the sting of chilly cheeks that burn after coming indoors. I would gladly brush snow from windshields and shovel a (short) driveway to earn the right to smell–and eat–cookies fresh from the oven and sit by the fireplace long into the night with a good book or sharing a rich red wine while engaged in great conversation… but–alas–I digress. Christmas, in Chile, is in summer.

Christmas in Santiago (elf Dad)

Christmas in Santiago (elf Dad)

By now it is clear, you see, that I am certainly not the most objective person in the world to tell about the wonders of Chilean Christmas, but here’s my take on it… as objectively as I am capable.

Chileans celebrate “la Noche Buena” (the Good Night) on the night of the 24th, which is followed by an almost audible sigh of relief on the morning of the 25th once it is finally over. It marks the end of a month of way too many activities all jammed together for anyone to really enjoy any of them.

Christmas crowds, cell phones, traffic & elf hats for sale

Christmas crowds, cell phones, traffic & elf hats for sale

I never used to be a Scrooge, but even after all these years, I just cannot get used to the idea of Christmas at 90º-plus. I want to wear a big heavy coat while Christmas shopping! But sandals and sundresses are all I can bear these days. Poor Santa (Viejo Pascuero) would love to do the same, although he quietly suffers beneath his heavy red suit and big white beard (an image imported from the north, undoubtedly with much influence from Coca Cola). But I must say I did better this year. Last year my husband threatened to deport me to the North Pole, where I’m sure I would have been happier. But somehow I coped better this year: there was no pouting, no tantrums, and, for the first time in my life, no tree. I cut the fuss to a minimum and let the chips fall where they may-a very useful strategy, I might add…
Christmas street shopping

Christmas street shopping

Aside from my own cultural expectations associated with wintertime traditions, it’s also a matter of just too much going on at once. It’s sad to say, but people in the southern hemisphere get ripped off by having most of the year’s major events all jammed together: it’s the end of the school year (along with exams, graduations, college entrance exams, college applications, all at the same time). It’s the end of the working year, and because it’s summer, vacations are just around the corner (most people take 3 weeks in February). It’s also wedding season. Once we get to March, everyone is exhausted and broke and staring at credit card bills, back-to-school expenses, and mandatory March car registrations, and another 9 long months of work and winter til it all starts all over again!
Christmas sales are brisk on the streets of Santiago

Christmas sales are brisk on the streets of Santiago

Yes, it’s the Scrooge in me coming out. And there’s more. I think it would be easier to handle if there were more holiday customs and traditions, but there really aren’t many it seems. Traditionally people set up a nativity scene and today many people also have a table top tree in the house (fresh cut trees are forbidden). Sure, there are lights spiraling up palm trees and draping big leafy trees in some sections of town. Some people seem to like playing Secret Santa (don’t get me going on that one!) and there’s Cola de Mono (yummy milk-based punch with a kick) and Pan de Pascua (Christmas bread), of course, but the overall feeling just seems pretty commercial.

Candy Canes in Santiago

Candy Canes in Santiago

Most people work til midday on the 24th, and then run out to finish their Christmas shopping (see the pictures of Providencia on the afternoon of the 24th). The traffic jams are phenomenal and you can count on a minimum of 45 minutes at any check-out counter in town (the nice thing is that stores wrap presents for you). Then it’s rush home to gather the family and make the mad dash to the extended family dinner and present-opening ceremony at midnight.

But then, as fast as it started, it’s all over. The 25th is the day after, much like New Year’s Day… Everything comes to a screeching halt, everyone kicks back a few notches, and Santiago becomes a wonderful place to be until March. (Note to travelers, early January is a good time to come!)

For a more romanticized version of a Chilean Christmas, check out:  http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/intelligenttravel/2008/12/celebrating-the-season-santiag.html

Soon it will be New Year’s Eve, and that’s a whole different story. And even though I want a white Christmas, I really LOVE the green New Year’s… but that’s another tale to tell! (See New Years a la Chilena)