Christmas Traditions in Panama

It seems that the most Google searches that bring people to Chiriquí Chatter in December is related to Christmas Traditions in Panama. I don’t know if this is a typical teacher exercise for students living in a cold region to get the students to think about Christmas in a warmer part of the world or not, but I know some are students because of the (Interesting Comments which have to be deleted).

If you got here because of a school assignment, then have a look here.

I think it is a pretty good description of many Latin American countries Christmas traditions. The following is what the article says about Panama.

PANAMA: “Feliz Navidad” is the same Christmas greeting that is used in most Spanish speaking countries. Sometimes you will hear them say, “Felices Pascuas” though this is more suited as an Easter greeting.

The Holidays start for the Panamanian people on December 8th with the celebration of the Immaculate Conception. This is also Mother’s Day in Panama. Some of the little girls are dressed as Angels with wings attached to their dresses and there is a parade with the Statue of the Blessed Virgin being carried down the main street. The children also make their first communion on this day.

During the following weeks the ‘nacimientos’ are set up. Many have been in the families for years and were bought in Europe.

The first tree in Panama was brought to the Central Hotel from Europe by the Ehrman family. Not all families display Christmas trees.

The day of December 24th, is spent in food preparation and house cleaning. Some traditional Panamanian food is, pavo (turkey) and relleno (stuffing), arroz dulce and tamales (a cornmeal made into a paste with arturo sauce, meats, capers, prunes, and spices wrapped in plantain leaves and boiled). Fruitcake is a popular dessert item. The Panamanians listen to music as they await midnight to feast and visit family and friends. After eating, it is common for people to dance and celebrate in the streets.

On Christmas Day, December 25th, most worship at their church in the morning. The rest of the day is spent visiting far-away family and friends and eating the same holiday foods.
Although Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the other big holiday in Panama is Epiphany – or Dia de los Reyes (Kings Day), when the children get presents.
Christmas music is often traditional and includes songs called “gaitas” or “villancicos”. Lots of singing, eating, drinking and fun surrounds Christmas in Panama. The American influence with the building of the Canal Zone changed the holidays into a mixture of Panamanian and American traditions. In the Canal Zone the decorating of the exterior of houses with many lights and decorations made the season “brighter

Sorry I was so late in posting this, but maybe those searching to complete a Christmas assignment next year will not be so unhappy with what they found here. One thing the above didn’t mention is fireworks. At midnight on the 24th, there will many fireworks going off everywhere. In fact, some have been going off all week. I expect more to continue and the grand finale will be new years at midnight when Panama City will have it skyline covered with fireworks.

Today is the day before Christmas and I hope you are all with your family and have a wonderful Christmas and remember it is a time to share good memories and not just for exchanging gifts.

104 thoughts on “Christmas Traditions in Panama

  1. Are the shops and malls like Albrook mall open on Christmas day? Will be there visiting and wondering what to do and where to eat on Christmas day?

  2. El Nino Dios (the Christ Child) is the one who brings gifts to the children on the
    eve of the Feast of the Three Kings,January 5. Santa brings toys to American children
    living in Panama, of which I was one of them. I am an American who grew up in Panama and lived there for twenty seven years in Panama City and not the Panama Canal Zone.
    Santa may be displayed in the stores but el Nino Dios brings the toys. That is
    the Spanish tradition. I doubt that has changed. However some families may
    give some toys on Christmas eve but El Nino Dios brings them not Santa.
    Santa bringing toys to Panamanian children is a lot of expat foolishness.

    Another beautiful tradition in Panama is placing a statue of the Virgin Mary
    on their balconies with lights or on their front lawn on December 8. Also visiting the Catholic
    Churches to see the Nacimientos (Nativity scenes). They are beautiful and very
    large, unlike what you see here in the U.S. which are small, except the one at
    the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Folks go from
    Church to Church during the holidays.
    Attending Midnight Mass and visiting their families after mass and
    having their Christmas dinner of tamales. arros con pollo, and turkey or roast pork, is mandatory in most Panamanian families.
    I don’t recall all that drinking and dancing sounds more like New Years Eve.
    Not that there wasn’t music.
    And even New Years Eve, most young folks went out to celebrate and returned home
    just before midnight to be with their families at the stroke of midnight.
    Then they went out again, bar hopping.

    When I lived there you didn’t seem too many Christmas trees. They
    were very expensive and hard to get. Mostly Americans had them
    purchased in the former Panama Canal Zone.
    That may have changed cause they are more readily available.

    Another tradition I recall is sons would serenade their Mothers on the
    eve of December 8 (Mother’s Day).. Beautiful
    guitar music in the middle of the night. Ah the memories!

Leave a Reply