in Venezuela is a mixture of religious tradition and sheer fun. Beginning
on December 16, many families erect a pesebre in their house, with
not only a nativity scene, but a diorama of the entire region with
mountains, hills, plains, and valleys. Often this is a work of art
into which the head of the family has put many hours, and the pieces
become heirlooms to be passed down from generation to generation.
One custom dictates that on the first day of the new year, the figure
of the Christ child must be lifted from the manger crib and placed
in a standing position until the Feast of Cadelaria on February 2nd.
Neighbors and friends keep watch to be sure that the tradition is
strictly honored. If it is not, the figure of the holy child will
be secretly stolen and held for ransom. The ransom is a party that
must be given by the people who have been appointed as godparents
for the holy child. When the figurine is returned to its original
setting, a procession is held which may include fireworks and a band
along with much singing and dancing.
In the city of Caracas,
Christmas Eve is a popular time and a rather unusual custom occurs
shortly after midnight. That is when one of the main streets fills
with hundreds of young roller-skaters. Friends and schoolmates skate
together until time for a special church service, after which the
young people skate home for a breakfast featuring hallacas, a traditional
Venezuelan meat pie with a cornmeal crust that is wrapped in banana
leaves and boiled.
There may be no snow
for Santa's sled or chimneys for him to climb down in Venezuela,
but artificial Christmas trees, some with artificial snow on their
branches, can be adorned with colorful decorations using traditional
designs and colors.