When December begins, joy takes over people’s hearts all ove the Christian world, since they celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. Child laugh when they imagine the gifts that are coming their way and others think of the banquet that will bring together they whole family on that special day.
In Peru, there are many customs and each of them claims a different Christmas meal. The people of the highlands, coast, and jungle do things differently from one another. I will speak a bit about each of these regions in order to lay out a bit more of our Christmas gastronomy.
In the highlands, the Christmas feeling is very fraternal. Families always try to bring together each member in order to be together on this date. You can often find four generations together. In their Christmas feast they always rely on their traditional and historical tubers. These make up side dishes to accompany the crisp, golden roast pig dressed with hot peppers and wild herbs. It is cooked in a mud oven for three hours causing it to have a taste and scent that are unique.
Some people include guinea pig in the meal. To drink, they always include chicha made from corn. The children drink chocolate along with seeds such as quinoa, wheat, amaranth (kiwicha), garbanzo beans, cañihua, broad beans, and soy beans. That is how they celebrate in the highlands.
The jungle, in contrast, is a hot zone where the happiest people in Peru live. In their heart a celebration and party can always be found as well as joy in each other. The people of the jungle use the ingredients that represent their cuisine to make up their Christmas dinner.
They make up juanes, tacachos, and grilled fish, especially the famous carachama fish. Instead of turkey they cook up a chicken filled with vegetables and a dressing of jungle hot peppers, soy sauce, garlic, and dried seasonings. The sides are the juanes and tacacho we have already mentioned. They add to this their sausages. For dessert they have a fruit salad.
Instead of hot chocolate for the children, they get a ponche (hot punch) of banana (poche) with milk. Their toast at midnight is made with uvachado, a drink made from tiny grapes.
On the coast, in Lima, traditionally we make a wonderful, golden roast turkey and place it in the center of the table along with classic pairings, such as a candied sweet potato mash, apple puree, salads, and white rice or the well known Arabic rice. To toast at midnight we use a bottle of champagne or wine, much as is done in the rest of the world. Children enjoy a hot chocolate with panettone.
The most important of your relatives come together, if the family is small. If the family is large they gather in the home of their grandmother for her to enjoy Christmas with her grandchildren. The best moment is when each of them gets to open their gifts. The surprise and joy of each one of them is unforgettable.
Wherever you are in Peru, Christmas is celebrated with love and fellowship. That is what is important everybody at home and around the table.