Unwrapping Latin America’s Gift-Giving Etiquette

Posted on Dec 27 2013 - 9:15pm by Editor

Throughout Latin America, gift-giving etiquette differs, varying depending on customs, cultures, traditions and climates.

a-shopping-mall-employee-gift-wraps-a-perfume-in-frankfurt-in-this-november-28-2009-file-photoPresenting an item to someone without expectation or payment, or exchanging with the expectation of reciprocity, isn’t specific to the holiday season or Latin Americans, but the mutual exchange of money, goods, gifts and kindness is something that is shared in the Latin American community, and it speaks to the tradition of Spanish culture and nonverbal communication.

Argentina‘s gift-giving etiquette dictates that presents should be opened immediately after receiving it, and wrapping paper must be torn; while in Colombia gifts are never opened in public unless the giver insists; and gifts are exchanged at midnight. Also, children often find their gifts at the foot of their beds.

In Brazil, giving gifts to someone of the opposite gender may be misinterpreted as a romantic overture — unless it was someone’s birthday. The people of Ecuador exchange gifts of fruits and produce; children receive gifts on Christmas morning, while parents and adults must wait until New Year’s Day.

In Mexico, children are blindfolded on Christmas day, and they are to break a clay piñata that dangles from rope — and gift springs forward. Presents are opened on Christmas Eve as well.

The children also receive gifts from the “Three Wise Men” on Jan. 6; the “Three Wise Men” also visit the children of Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Paraguay on the same date.

Papá Noel, El Niño Dios, Viejito Pascuero, Bom Velhinho, Los Tres Reyes Magos, Niño Jesús, San Nicolás, Santa Clos, Santa Claus, Papai Noel, Jesús Christmas, and The Three Kings are fabled gift-bearers throughout Latin America, who are quickly debunked once children pierce the threshold of puberty.

The idea of an enchanted man, baby or men delivering gifts is completely replaced by the process of exchanging presents.

In America, Latino Americans of every national background host formal gift-wrapped gift-giving exchanges that generally adhere to U.S. customs. Homemade gifts are acceptable, but generally things of monetary value are appreciated.

Below the tree, presents are nestled happily (and, in some nations there is a Nativity Scene, also), and on Christmas Eve or Day, the gifts are peeled open immediately, and technological gadgets, grooming kits, perfume/cologne sets, clothing, jewelry and housewares are unveiled. Gifts vary in sizes, prices and functionality; and, due to the great buying power in the U.S., it can be fairly certain that Christmas is a time for gainful exchanges in Latino households.

From LATIN POST