Christmas in El Salvador: Cumbia, Cohetes & Chumpe

Nov 30, 2020 | El Salvador, Spanish Reading, Spanish Vocabulary

Alejandra Chavarría

Alejandra Chavarría

Alejandra is from El Salvador and lives in Poland. She’s a Spanish teacher of SAY ZONTE!

Christmas in El Salvador

Christmas is a very special Christian holiday in every country, and today I would like to tell you how we celebrate Christmas in El Salvador.

Like every Christian, we celebrate the birth of the Child Jesus, of course. Many traditions are repeated over the years and have been influenced by other countries, such as decoration and music.

The day when the people in El Salvador celebrate Christmas is December 24th, on the night of Good Friday.

Are you from El Salvador? Then please leave a comment below if you agree or if I forgot something.

No Christmas in El Salvador without Cumbia music!

There’s no Christmas in El Salvador without Cumbia! It is a musical genre of Colombian origin, but it has greatly influenced El Salvador’s music since the 1950s.

Salvadoran and Colombian cumbias are present in most homes since November, and with them, family dances.

You can also hear Christmas carols and other classic songs. Here is a list of the most popular cumbias in El Salvador to dance and feel the Salvadorian Christmas spirit before and during Christmas.

El Estreno

Estrenar is a word with no translation in another language. It means to use  (wear) something for the first time. It is widespread for parents to buy new clothes to wear at Christmas for their children, and some adults also decide to wear them to continue the tradition.

You can buy all or just the shoes, the shirt, the pants, the skirt, etc. If you don’t wear them for the first time, that’s not a problem either. Many decide to renew their style this day; the point is to look very handsome or pretty for this occasion.

christmas in el salvador

What do people eat in El Salvador for Christmas?

Christmas dinner is the most important moment of the night. Families get together to share and thank God for their blessings. The food that cannot be missing is the “Panes con Chumpe.” Chumpe comes from the word chompipe, which means turkey in El Salvador and other Mesoamerican countries. Read more: here.

Many decide to buy them alive and kill them on the 24th when we celebrate Christmas in El Salvador. Usually, the chompipe is cooked with a special tomato sauce for the season, accompanied with rice and salad. We eat the chumpe with bread, like a sandwich with watercress, lettuce, radish, cucumber, beet, pickle, and chumpe sauce.

Because there’s almost always too much food, it is widespread to eat reheated food for one or two days after the 24th (el recalentado). We also eat fruits such as apples, grapes, and strawberries during this time of the year. Chocolates are also a must.

Los Cohetes – The fireworks

Fireworks in El Salvador are known as rockets (pronounced cuetes), and yes, they are legal (although sometimes I think they shouldn’t be!).

It is a somewhat dangerous but very popular tradition. The most common rockets are the stargazer, the mortar, the whistle, and the fulminate (the last two are no longer allowed), among others. It is essential to be very careful with children on this day to avoid accidents. Unfortunately, they sometimes happen.

Christmas in El Salvador

Los regalos – the gifts

The tradition of gift-giving depends on each family. In some families, it is Santa Claus who brings gifts to the little ones. In others, it is the Child God, and in others, the children know that it is the parents who give the Christmas gifts. They are left under the tree at midnight on the 24th. The children open them on the morning of the 25th.

christmas in el salvador

La decoración – the decoration

It is very typical to see the streets, parks, and start-nowping centers decorated for Christmas. Most families put up a Christmas tree with the “el nacimiento.” The nativity scene is composed of Mary and Joseph, the 3 Wise Men, a donkey, an ox, and the Baby Jesus placed at midnight on the 24th when Jesus is born. Some nativity scenes are very big and have more figures. The figures can be made of wood or clay. We usually remove the tree on January 6th, which is the day of the Three Kings.

christmas in el salvador

December 25th – Beach Day

Many families have a tradition of spending December 25th at the beach. So it is very typical that the beaches are full on this day. Younger people celebrate big parties with dancing, live music and, of course, cumbia.

How is Christmas celebrated in your country? Is it very different from how we celebrate Christmas in El Salvador? Please leave a comment!

¡Hasta pronto!

P.S.: If you want to practice your Spanish, we have the same post in Spanish, please click here.

Christmas in El Salvador

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