(Manuel Martinez/Viva Colorado)

Unlike most Americans, the majority of Latinos celebrate Christmas on December 24, known as Nochebuena (or Christmas Eve), with a big dinner in the company of family and friends, lots of music and gifts.

Although each family has its own traditions, for many Latinos who celebrate Christmas Eve, December 25th is a day of rest, as the celebration that begins the night before can extend into the wee hours.

In fact, for many Catholic families, the Christmas celebration does not begin until they come home from church to attend the famous Misa de Gallo (or Midnight Mass), which marks the birth of Jesus and takes place at 12 midnight. Many people take their figurine of baby Jesus so it can be blessed before putting it on their nativity.

In Denver, only a few Catholic churches offer this mass, including the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and St. Augustine Catholic Parish in Brighton.

According to tradition, it's called Misa de Gallo in reference to the rooster that witnessed the birth of Jesus and announced it to the world.

In a traditional Nochebuena dinner, the main dishes served depend not only on the preference and customs of each family, but the country from where they come.

In Mexico, for example, dinner can include homemade tamales, atole, bacalao (cod) a la Vizcaina or romeritos en revoltijo (a dish made with Mexican greens) accompanied by buñuelos (small donuts) for dessert and ponche (punch) to toast.


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In other Latin American countries, especially those in the Caribbean, the main dish is roast pork with rice and beans, pasteles (tamales) and different salads. Plus, it wouldn't be Christmas without Coquito, an alcoholic beverage made with coconut milk, condensed milk and white rum.

It should be noted that many countries have adopted the American custom of eating turkey and therefore have that as the main course on Nochebuena.