A night filled with dancing to the rhythm of salsa, eating lechon asado that was cooked in La Caja China atop burning coals, drinking coquito, and anxious little cousins that sit by the presents from the moment they arrive—this is Noche Buena.
Translated to “good night,” Noche Buena refers to Christmas Eve, the biggest Christmas celebration for most Latinos.
As many Latino families do, the Christmas holiday is really celebrated on Christmas Eve with presents being opened sometime after midnight. The great part about celebrating on this day is that it is rooted in various unique traditions.
Food is the most important part of Noche Buena. But, it varies depending on where each family is from.
In Mexico, dinner can include homemade tamales, bacalao a la Vizcaina, romeritos en revoltijo (a dish made with Mexican greens) accompanied by buñuelos (small donuts) for dessert.
In other Latin American countries, especially those in the Caribbean, the main dish is roast pork with rice and beans, tamales, and different salads. And, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Coquito, an alcoholic beverage made with coconut milk, condensed milk, and white rum.
“Coming from a Puerto Rican descent, The food I eat on Noche Buena are arroz con gandules, pernil, ham, potato salad, mac and cheese, and flan,” said Jasmin Ortiz, a Puerto Rican MLEC Student.
But, the party does not stop there.
Once the clock strikes 12 A.M., many Hispanic families let their children open their presents and also exchange gifts themselves.
The night ends in playing dominos, a longstanding part of the night that many Cuban and Puerto Rican families embrace, and in all of the little children playing with their new toys.
Noche Buena—the one time a year where we all come together, and that’s more valuable than any present or dish or tradition combined.