Christmas in El Salvador. Everything You Need to Know

Christmas in El Salvador
Salvadoran Celebrations during Christmas.

Christmas in El Salvador is a holiday full of customs and traditions; it includes family gatherings, cooking unique foods, setting off fireworks, attending church, and creating nativity scenes. These Christmas celebrations are a significant part of the country’s culture and history passed on from generations.

Salvadorans celebrate Christmas on the 24th at midnight. Therefore, taking a trip to the beach on the 25th is a popular tradition for Salvadorans.

Another popular custom is El Estreno for Christmas eve, which is just wearing something new. It does not matter what it is, shoes, pants, shirts, skirts, or dresses.

Christmas in El Salvador is all about customs and traditions. The most popular ones are family gatherings, cooking unique foods, setting off fireworks, and creating nativity scenes (Los Nacimientos.)

Christmas Celebrations in El Salvador.
San Salvador Historic district. Photo by Mario Recinos.

How is Christmas Celebrated in El Salvador?

Traditional Christmas celebrations in El Salvador are done with the entire family and close friends. On Christmas eve, families attend mass together, then return home to a traditional family dinner and continue the holiday celebrations. These celebrations include traditional Salvadoran food and drinks prepared specially for this occasion.

Family Gathering During the Christmas Holidays

A family gathering is one of the best traditions El Salvador has during Christmas. Salvadorans travel long distances to be with loves ones during these holiday celebrations.

During December, the International airport in El Salvador gets extra busy. Salvadorans living abroad take this time to travel to the country and spend time with family and friends.

Salvadoran families do different things during Christmas gatherings. For example, some families attend religious activities together. Other families stay at home, play music, dance, hang out, and talk to each other.

Every Salvadoran family that gets together during this holiday has its unique way of spending the celebration. By the way, Christmas family gatherings are great to see relatives that you haven’t seen all year or even longer.

Traditional and Unique Foods for Christmas

Another popular aspect of Salvadoran Christmas traditions is the cooking of typical foods and unique family recipes. During the Christmas holidays, families go out of their way to cook these types of foods.

Some of the traditional foods prepared for Christmas are Tamales, Pan con Pollo, and Quesadillas. These foods are prepared in larger quantities as they serve a few purposes.

These foods, prepared in large quantities, are there for anyone visiting during the holidays. Showing up unannounced is a regular thing to do in Salvadoran culture. Also, these foods are giving as gifts to relatives and neighbors.

On the other hand, specific or unique family recipes are prepared and share with the immediate family and close friends.

It is customary to eat this meal together on the 24th at a family dinner. Examples of these recipes are Lomo Relleno, Lasagna, Roasted Chicken, etc.

When it comes to specific foods for Christmas dinner, each family decides what they want to prepare. The cooking of these traditional Salvadoran foods is a tradition that makes this holiday better in El Salvador.

The Fireworks During Christmas Celebrations

Fireworks are a big part of Christmas in El Salvador; Salvadorans set off these fireworks at any point during December. The country has almost no restrictions when it comes to setting off fireworks.

The sound of fireworks is a normal thing to hear during the Christmas holidays. Salvadorans set up fireworks all over the country and at all hours.

El Salvador Fireworks
Salvadoran Firework store.

The big traditional firework event takes place on Christmas eve, right before midnight. It is a tradition that at this time, people set up all types of fireworks.

The chaotic sound of fireworks being set up all over the place is something best experienced in person. During this time, the streets get filled with smoke, and the smell of burned powder is intense.

Fireworks in El Salvador is a Christmas tradition that has caused controversy over the last few years.

The country has almost no laws regarding who, where, and when these fireworks can be set off. Therefore, the number of firework-related injuries during Christmas is alarming.

Every year, during the Christmas holidays, many people get injured, especially children. Most of the injuries reported are severe burns. However, in some cases, injuries are more critical as the loss of fingers or even death.

Even with all the controversies, setting off fireworks is a Christmas tradition enjoyed by Salvadorans of any age all over the country.

Fireworks during Christmas in El Salvador
Fireworks during Christmas in El Salvador.

Los Nacimientos or Nativity Scenes

In El Salvador, families take the nativity scenes or Los Nacimientos seriously. Some families spend days setting up their nativity scenes to impress others.

Native scenes are different in each house. They can be modest setups that include images of baby Jesus and his parents. To complex nativity scenes that include fountains, light shows, and more. The Salvadoran nativity scenes are a Christmas tradition that makes this holiday more attractive.

El Salvador Nativity Scene
Salvadoran nativity scene.

Sence of Community During Christmas in El Salvador

During the Christmas holidays, members of some communities or neighborhoods go the extra mile to be more inclusive of each other.

Many people in these communities give away traditional foods they have prepared to neighbors as gifts.

Additionally, at midnight on the 24th, after the customary hug has been shared among family members; people, go into the street, hug neighbors, and wish them a merry Christmas.

Although this tradition is in decline, it is still visible, especially in smaller neighborhoods. Embracing others in the community during Christmas is a pleasant Salvadoran tradition worth doing.

Christmas in El Salvador
People walking around the divine savior of the world monument. Photo by Steven dos Remedios

Other Christmas Traditions in El Salvador

El Salvador has many other Christmas traditions that make this holiday even more special. Not everyone in the country follows them; however, they are worth mentioning.

Dancing to La Bala Song

La Bala is a classic song popular during Christmas eve; it is a silly song that Salvadorans, especially the older generation like to dance to at some point during the night. Click here to see a video of this song.

Going to the Beach on December 25th

Salvadorans celebrate Christmas on the 24th at midnight. Therefore, taking a trip to the beach on the 25th is a popular tradition for Salvadorans. The most popular beaches in El Salvador get crowed on December 25th.

El Estreno on Christmas Eve

El Estreno is just wearing something new for Christmas eve; it does not matter what it is, shoes, pants, shirts, skirts, dresses, etc. Many Salvadorans will make sure to wear something new (Estrenar) during Christmas eve.

Eating Recalentados (Leftover food)

Recalentados is a Spanish word for leftover food. Since families prepared so much food for Christma eve; and also get multiple food gifts from family or neighbors, there is plenty of leftover food to eat for days.

These small traditions are what makes Christmas in El Salvador special. Yes, they might be silly but are part of the Salvadoran culture.

Christmas in El Salvador

Christmas in El Salvador is one of the most popular holidays in the country, and for good reasons; it involves family, friends, and customs that go back a long time.

Salvadorans of all ages look forward to spending time with family, eating tasty food, and setting off fireworks. Spending Christmas in El Salvador is a fantastic experience.


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