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What is Nochebuena? 5 Ways to Celebrate Christmas Eve

For many people, the holiday season is a time for coming together with family and friends to celebrate and create special memories. Nochebuena is the most exciting day of the year to spend with our families and friends.

Nochebuena dinner with arroz con gandules, arroz con leche y pernil

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Nochebuena or Christmas Eve can be a time for reconnecting with loved ones and strengthening bonds, as well as a time for reflection and gratitude. The holidays can also be a time for giving and sharing, whether through gift-giving, volunteering, or simply showing kindness and generosity to others.

For many, the holiday season is an important and meaningful time of year.

Table of Contents

What is Nochebuena?

Nochebuena is Spanish for “good night.” It is often used to refer to Christmas Eve. In many Spanish-speaking countries, Nochebuena is an integral part of the Christmas celebration, with families coming together to share a meal and exchange gifts.

In some places, people attend midnight Mass on Nochebuena, while others participate in special candlelight services or other religious ceremonies.

Overall, Nochebuena is a time for families and friends to come together and celebrate the holiday season.

Dishes on Nochebuena

The day before Christmas is celebrated in many countries, including Spain, Mexico, and other Latin American countries. In many of these cultures, Nochebuena is a time for families to gather together and enjoy a special meal.

Agnis Peña Toro described the tradition of coming together to enjoy our traditions through food so perfectly… “embracing the dishes your mother and grandmother cooked for you as a child is going back in time to honor your ancestors’ ingredients, flavors, textures.” 

The authentic dishes served on Nochebuena vary depending on the country and region, but some common foods include roast pork, tamales, and various sweets such as panettone and turrón. In Spain, it is traditional to eat a dish called “pescaíto frito,” a variety of fried fish. In Mexico, a popular Nochebuena dish is “romeritos,” made with shrimp and a special sauce.

In addition to the specific dishes served, Nochebuena is also a time for families to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate the holiday season. This often involves exchanging gifts, stories, and memories from the past year. The Nochebuena meal focuses on spending time with loved ones and enjoying a special feast together.


On Nochebuena in Colombia, as in many other countries, people typically eat a special meal on Nochebuena to celebrate the holiday.

The specific dishes that are served can vary depending on the region and the individual family’s traditions. However, some common dishes that are often served on Nochebuena in Colombia include tamales, lechona (a dish made with roasted pork and rice), and buñuelos (a type of sweet fritter).

Additionally, people often enjoy a variety of fruits and desserts, such as natilla (a type of custard) and arroz con leche (a sweet rice pudding), as part of their Nochebuena meal.

Puerto Ricans...

In Puerto Rico, people typically enjoy a special meal with their families. The specific dishes that are served can vary depending on the individual family’s traditions and preferences, but some common dishes that are often served on Nochebuena in Puerto Rico include pernil (roast pork), arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), and pasteles (a type of tamale made with masa and filled with meat or vegetables).

Additionally, people often enjoy a variety of fruits and desserts, such as coquito (a coconut-based beverage) and tembleque (a custard-like dessert), as part of their Nochebuena meal.


Many Cubans enjoy a traditional meal called lechón asado, which is roast pork. This dish is typically served with black beans and rice, tostones (twice-fried plantain slices), and other side dishes.

Some other common dishes that might be served on Christmas Eve in Cuba include tamales, yuca con mojo (boiled cassava with garlic sauce), and salads. For dessert, it is common to have fresh fruit, tres leches cake, or flan.


A popular Nochebuena dish in Mexico is “romeritos,” which is made with shrimp and served with a special sauce.


On this day, Filipinos typically enjoy a feast that includes a variety of dishes, such as lechón (roasted pig), hamon (ham), queso de bola (edam cheese), and a variety of fruits and desserts.

Other common dishes may include pancit (noodles), relleno (stuffed vegetables), and bibingka (a type of rice cake).


Venezuelan dishes might include tamales, roasted pork, and panettone, a sweet bread typically served during the holidays. Other traditional dishes might be served, including hallacas, cornmeal dough filled with meat and vegetables, and ponche crema, a rich and creamy eggnog-like drink.

5 Ways to Celebrate Nochebuena

#1 Spend Time with Your Loved Ones.

Nochebuena is a time for families and friends to come together and celebrate the holiday season. Gather together to sing carols, share stories, and create new memories.

#2 Decorate

Decorate your home with Christmas lights, trees, and other decorations. In many Latino cultures, it is common to see brightly-colored lights and decorations on homes and streets during Christmas.

#3 Exchange Gifts

Exchange gifts with your family and friends. In many Latino cultures, gift-giving is an important part of the Christmas celebration, and many families have a tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve.

#4 Nochebuena Dinner

Enjoy a traditional Christmas Eve dinner, or “Nochebuena,” with your loved ones. This meal typically includes dishes such as roast pork, tamales, and fruit salad.

#5 Attend a Midnight Mass

Attend a special midnight Mass, also known as a “Misa de Gallo,” which translates to “Rooster’s Mass” in English. This Mass is held on the evening of December 24th and often includes the singing of traditional Christmas carols.

Religious Tradition

Nochebuena is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. It is typically observed by attending church services, spending time with family and friends, and exchanging gifts.

Some people may also observe religious traditions, such as praying or singing carols, to mark the occasion. In general, Nochebuena is a time for celebration and reflection on the meaning of the Christmas season.

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