Christmas is celebrated the world over, but in Latin American countries, yuletide festivities often fall under the label of Noche Navideña.
That’s the name the CSO Latino Alliance has adopted for its annual holiday event, which this year will precede the Dec. 17 matinee of Merry, Merry Chicago!, the Christmas-themed revue featuring members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under guest conductor Alastair Willis, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Before the concert, Latino Alliance members and their guests will gather in Grainger Ballroom for a reception featuring refreshments and a special performance (concert tickets cover admission to the event).
Founded in 2013, the Latino Alliance launched its annual Noche Navideña event a few years later. “Noche Navideña at the CSO has become a treasured family tradition for its members because it brings CSO Latino Alliance and friends together,” said Ramiro J. Atristaín-Carrión, co-chair of the CSO Latino Alliance. “Noche Navideña is a fun activity; it can spark happy memories, and most important, it helps us celebrate this season as a community.”
Above all, it caters to family. “I specially like how it brings Latino families to Symphony Center to share goodwill and warm feelings with other Latino families,” he said. “The music is inclusive so it’s attractive to children and adults of whatever faith and background. Noche Navideña has been an annual success.”
In Spanish-speaking countries, holiday festivities vary widely, depending on the region. Still, no matter the area, there are some constants: the celebration revolves around food, music and family.
Another important holiday event is Noche Buena, celebrated on Christmas Eve. Noche Buena (“Good Night” in English) is a time for family and friends to eat, drink, be merry and celebrate the holiday’s religious component, the birth of Jesus. (Noche Buena also is the name of a familiar Christmas plant: la flor de nochebuena or the poinsettia, which is native to Mexico.)
In many countries, especially Mexico and the Philippines, Noche Buena is more important than Christmas Day, with festivities lasting well into the night. Noche Buena often recalls Thanksgiving, as it centers on a big family feast complete with tamales, pozole (a traditional hominy stew) and pavo (turkey).
Festivities often begin nine days before Noche Buena with celebrations called Las Posadas, running from Dec. 16 to 24. Las Posadas (meaning “the inns”) mark the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as they searched for shelter before the impending birth of baby Jesus. Guests often participate in an outdoor procession as they sing villancicos (carols or traditional songs).
Noche Buena also includes attending mass. Sometimes this mass occurs before dinner, but the more traditional mass is called la Misa del Gallo, or midnight mass. Gallo means rooster in English, and according to tradition, the rooster was one of the animals present when baby Jesus was born.
Whether one celebrates Noche Navideña or Noche Buena, it's definitely something to crow about.