Christmas dinner for some is a big head ache. For others it is very simple. Each family has its own style of preparing and consuming their Christmas dinner. No matter what, though, the dinner is a way of sharing this special time with family.
Harmony is supposed to reign in families as they come together to share each with others. There is a great variety of dishes that families choose to make for this night of unity.
In Cuzco’s traditional markets you can see women especially all over the place selecting products for their Christmas dinner. Everything is very full today. Merchants take advantage of the large numbers of people and place themselves strategically on Cuzco’s street, the plazas, or inside various markets and fairs to offer toys, decorations, food items, and more for people to use today.
The dishes that are preferred for Christmas dinner are stuffed turkey, lechón (roast pig), roast beef (asado de res), baked turkey, baked and stuffed chicken, baked guinea pig, and more.
Because of the intense cold that hits the city late at night in the rainy season many families prefer to have only a delicious chicken soup, or maybe just the traditional paneton with a cup of steaming hot chocolate. As people wait for midnight when the Niño Jesus, the Christ Child, is born they talk, laugh, and share food. Every famly has its own customs of what to eat and when to eat it this night.
On the streets that are within Cuzco’s monumental core the restaurants are set up to serve Christmas fare to those who prefer that option or are traveling this night. With their decorations, their Christmas lights and dolls, they offer Christmas dinners to individuals and groups that are far from home or just wish to go out.
When I spoke with my friends about the topic of Christmas dinner I found out that on the coast people tend to eat and serve turkey out of the oven far more frequently, while in Cuzco we go for more variety. They tend to prepare it with great creativity and generally eat it at midnight. This great banquet is accompanied with lots of conversation and laughter in coastal families according to my friends
There are an incredible number of ways to prepare every dish. For example, just with the stuffed turkey every family has its own traditions. Some people make a stuffing of ground beef, others use pork, others sausages, or dried fruits, etc.
Because there are so many different ways, specified only within the family, there is no key recipe for this Peruvian tradition. Each family is different though all will share a meal tonight. In this we see once again that cuisine has no limits.
After receiving Christmas, once midnight comes and goes, to celebrate the birth of the christ child, people sleep and then the next day they eat left overs from their Christmas meal, or they prepare other dishes according to their economic capacities.
Christmas is not only about the birth of the Child Jesus, it is also a time of reflection for each person to not commit the same errors as in the past, but instead to live in harmony with all people.
The beauty of this night and the following day is that on it people get together and spend time one with another. They enjoy the different foods in fellowship and fraternity, joy and harmony. This is Christmas in Cuzco.