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. Christmas decorations are the same as those sold in the US. They all come from China. Blinking lights, lots of artificial trees. Last yeare there were real trees at El Rey that were brought in from Canada. Many stores are already decorated in the Christmas theme.

  2. hello im doin a r3port on PANAMA and i want to say thanx for 3v3ry thing on th3 work it help3d m3 on th3 r3port tat i hav3 2 do thax gave me back uppppp

  3. i am doing a project on christmas traditions in Panama and this helped! prob. the most legit information i have found! thanks so much! feliz navidad!

  4. Hi Sammi. Gifts are the same in Panama as anywhere else. It all depends on how much money a family hasto spend, but there are the same products on the shelves as there are in the US or Europe.

  5. Hi, Don
    I wish you a happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
    I need to know if the big american airlines arrive at the airport of David or just at Panama City only? and if I rent a car in David could I drive it to Costa Rica, then return back to David, is there are some
    possibilities ?
    Thank you so much for your help,
    I see you soon there…
    Miguel Pabon

  6. American only flys to Panama City. None of the major airlines fly to David yet.

    I can’t answer the rental car question. I have heard yes and no.

  7. Since we will be traveling on Christmas Day between Panama City and Caldera, I started thinking about how to keep the spirit alive. As I was packing, I came across two raincoats that my granddaughter outgrew. These would flatten out nicely in a suitcase, and can just be given to a child along the road at random. Got to thinking that I can surely get my hands on some more. They are rarely used here, so like new. Also have lots of beanie babies that will tuck into corners, and just be tossed out windows, if we were in fast moving traffic. This is our first Christmas ever away from our family, so this will hopefully make us feel really good. A gift, from us to us as well.. Abby

  8. Don, got to thinking after I posted. Small books are flat, and most of us who have to sit on our suitcases to get them closed could make room for a picture book for a child. Might even have some in Spanish. Just think, if each of us coming over the holiday just added ONE BOOK to our suitcases. And lets not forget the children that are a little older and tend to get less than the little cuties this time of year. This could add some fun for all of us travelers over the holidays. Abby L.

  9. Ya hello im doing a report on panama Christmas and i have look everywhere and i cant find out what the name of the person that delivers gifts is. Is it Santa like in the U.S. or is it called something els. plz help.

  10. Although the gifts are pretty much the same, do they have any certain gift traditions for the good children & the bad? Like how ours is coal if we’re bad, and presents if we’re good?

  11. I am a spanish teacher in middle school and this informatin has inspired me for an up coming project. Gracias! R.B

  12. Hola, I just wanted to say thank you for this informaton. My esponal clase is doing a christmas party and we have to research our country (Mine Panama) + bring in food. I am thinking of bringing in chicken and rice as a replacement for chicken tomales. Something Chicken… thanks again From sam ham

  13. Hi Dan, are indoor Christmas tress a tradition as well? My husband and I have considered having a tree farm when we move there.

  14. Just to leave you and your family a wonderful Christmas and right from here the Land Chicago, not as war and nice like there but I really will like just for a moment be rich to take a fly to David, visit my mother final destination, see what is left of my family and get over this influenza,. Feliz Navidad! Mr. Don Ray your column has keep me somehow a life and connected to one was my sole land. Thank you! y buena suerte!, as always, Cecilia

  15. My Spanish class is doing a project and we all have a Country to research. Mine is Panama. How do you make some of the traditional Christmas foods there? We need to list like traditions, foods, and their flag. Any additional info would be greatly appreciated.

  16. Hi Leah,

    Much of what is served on Christmas is similar to the U.S.

    You will see some speciality breads. Some will be round and braided. Another bread is panettone ant it always shows up in the grocery stores this time of year. Panamanian’s like to eat rice with guandu. That is something I haven’t adjusted to.

    Terimisu will be one of the favorite desserts.

    Here is a link to the Panama flag. The white panel with the star is always in the upper left hand position, when hung horizontal and vertical.

    For New Years, the tradition is to wear red underwear and eat 12 grapes. Originally you were to eat one grape as the clock struck each count at midnight.

    Fireworks are very big during Christmas and New Years.

    Good luck on your report and Merry Christmas from Panama to all in Lake Mary, Florida.

  17. I had to do research on the different traditions and holidays in panama, and how they are different from the traditions that me and my family have. This post helped out a lot and I got most one my information from here! Thanks so much!

  18. It is pretty much the same as in the US. Panama starts decorating the store for Christmas before Thanksgiving and it will be busy until after new years.

  19. What do they celebrate on December 28th and December 31st? Also, does Panama have any unique customs that other Central/South American countries don’t have?

  20. What do people do for new years in Panama? Also when do children get Christmas gifts? Also do they wear anything certain on Christmas and do they have any traditional activities?
    thank you

  21. December 28th = April 1st

    From the Wikipedia entry for “April Fools’ Day”

    Comparable prank days
    December 28, the equivalent day in Spain and Hispanic America, is also the Christian day of celebration of the “Day of the Holy Innocents”. The Christian celebration is a holiday in its own right, a religious one, but the tradition of pranks is not, though the latter is observed yearly. After somebody plays a joke or a prank on somebody else, the joker usually cries out, in some regions of Hispanic America: Inocente palomita que te dejaste engañar (“You innocent little dove that let yourself be fooled”), not to be confused with the second translation of palomita, which is popcorn.

    In Mexico, the phrase is ¡Inocente para siempre! which means “Innocent forever!”. In Argentina, the prankster says ¡Que la inocencia te valga!, which roughly translates as a piece of advice on not to be as gullible as the victim of the prank. In Spain, it is common to say just ¡Inocente! (which in Spanish can mean “Innocent!”, but also “Gullible!”).[21]

    In Colombia, the term used is “Pasala por inocente”, which roughly means: “I am innocent, it was just a joke”

    The Panamanian equivalent is “Inocente Mariposa”.

    Here’s the Wikipedia entry for “Día de los Santos Inocentes”ón,_bromas_e_inocentadas

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