When I started my internship about 3 months ago I knew already I was going to spend Christmas in Peru. I did have aims of eating ‘peru’ in Peru, until I realised that this Portuguese word for turkey is not the same in Spanish. Instead, I need to find ‘pavo’ in Peru. With all the invites I have received from my colleagues at Dos Manos travel agency in Cusco and their ‘big’ sister AMAUTA Spanish School in Cusco, that shouldn’t be an impossible quest. In between now and then, however, there is much festivity to be had in and around the school’s premises.

A Brit’s perspective on Christmas time in Cusco!

The first item on the festive agenda is the company’s Christmas party, known as a posada or in this case a ‘pollada’. Whilst online dictionaries haven’t helped me, I have deduced that this is a big chicken feast which is almost the same as turkey anyway. The staff, teachers and employees of AMAUTA and Dos Manos have been put in charge with selling tickets to the students at 10 Soles a pop. This has caused a number of interesting sales tactics between staff (mock-bribing by withholding food not excluded!) to avoid having to pay for the difference in tickets that aren’t sold by the end of the week. Surely if I have 5 tickets left over and I pay for them, I will be entitled to 5 courses of chicken! Whilst I would be the fattest man in Cusco if this came to pass, at least I could pull off a half-convincing Father Christmas!

The chicken party is held at a nearby volunteer project in Cusco that heavily relies on the time and talents shared by AMAUTA volunteers. All the teachers are going, which means if Halloween was anything to go by, this chicken fiesta should be brilliant!

A Brit’s perspective on Christmas time in Cusco!

The week after, we have the traditional ‘chocolatada’ in a small indigenous community close to the town of Pisaq in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is a yearly recurring event put on by AMAUTA, where hot chocolate and sweet breads are given to the local children, many of whom are undernourished and from extremely poor backgrounds. Many fellow students and residents are joining this much cherished event, and in the tradition of AMAUTA we will play games and give them each a donation such as clothes or toys. It promises to be an extremely enriching yet humbling experience.

While in Lima and on the coast it is summer, in Cusco the rainy season has been well underway and it can be quite chilly by night. This doesn’t stop anyone though, as apparently Christmas in Cusco is a holiday celebrated with tremendous enthusiasm. Here, the 24th of December is the main day of festivity, being called ‘noche buena’. A huge array of dishes is prepared for supper, usually including a main of turkey or pork, and the whole family stays up until midnight for the fireworks and to start opening the presents! Children then head to bed whilst the parents often frequent or host a late-night party, often going on until the break of dawn!

A Brit’s perspective on Christmas time in Cusco!

The 25th, my usual day of celebration back in the UK, is normally pretty quiet here, since all the presents have already been opened, and many don’t get to bed until sunrise the night before! Well I just have to celebrate both days!

For those interested to study Spanish in Cusco during Christmas time next year, you might want to consider doing the special Spanish and Christmas course with a Peruvian cooking workshop of Christmas candies and a traditional dinner with a local host family.

¡Feliz Navidad y un Venturoso Año Nuevo!