For the UK’s Latin American population community in Britain, Christmas celebrations were in their own style.
Estimated to be 186,500, out of the total 113,000 are in London alone. They celebrated Christmas on the other side of the Atlantic in multicultural Britain keeping close to their family.
The Latin American’s celebrate Christmas quite different from the way in which Britain’s do it. From food to opening of gifts and even the time to begin merriment is different for Britain’s and Latin Americans.
As reported in The prisma, family is of paramount importance in Latin American society, as is their love of meat. But this is no different to their British counterparts. It is with dancing and religion that the two cultures differ. Latin Americans love nothing more than a good rumba, to the point where it even surpasses food and drink in importance.
The Latin American society at the University of Sheffield organised the annual Traditional Latin American Christmas Celebration, a key component of which is bailando – dancing.
Visitors to the celebration indulged in the most popular dance for Latin Americans – Salsa. With origins in Cuba and Afro-Cuban dance, salsa has many different styles depending on the country it is practiced.
They also delighted in Merengue, a higher tempo dance from the Dominican Republic; Cumbia, a genre of music originating on the Caribbean coast of Colombia; and Reggaeton, a Puerto Rican fusion of Jamaican musical influences of dancehall with those of Latin America, such as Salsa, Latin rap and electrónica.
About 80 to 90% of the population of Latin America is Christian, rendering Christmas more than simply a time of wanton drinking and dancing.
Cristian Cetares, 25, a Colombian living in London, says: “Christmas Eve is a huge party. All the family will meet here in London; put money together to buy whisky, beer and a live pig. We love our meat. We will kill the pig, roast it and then all of us will eat and drink. We then put music on and dance with all the family until 7 or 8am.”
Because of constant immigration, and influence of popular culture from different countries, other traditions have been introduced in Christmas.
Fireworks are also a common part of their Christmas Eve. Pablo Cirielli, 29, an electrician in London, says: “In Argentina, Christmas Eve is great.”
In Latin America, religious themes predominate. They combine a mixture of traditions, for example gift bearing, acquired from their European and native forebears, with the increasing influence of US culture.