Daniel Salazar, former Peru Country Manager, writes about “three unusual things Peruvians do to celebrate Christmas.” This is #3: Fireworks on Christmas.
#3 Fireworks on Christmas:
Everyone loves fireworks – except for dogs. You might have pleasant memories of fireworks on the 4th of July or on your trip to Disney. That is nice, but Peruvians take fireworks to another level on Christmas Eve. Seriously. No matter how many times or how I describe Christmas Eve to volunteers, every time they are shocked when they see it for themselves.
See, on the 4th of July or at Disney, fireworks are carefully prepared and controlled. In Peru, they aren’t. In December, markets and streets turn into fireworks shops. Everyone goes crazy buying fireworks, especially children and teenagers. When I was little, I would save whatever money I could get to be able to buy a few. Since you don’t need a license to light them, everyone does it.
On Christmas Day, you can hear fireworks during the day, slowly increasing as the day progresses and growing even louder as you get into the night. The tradition is to have Christmas dinner at around 11 p.m. with loved ones, and when the clock strikes 12:00 am, greet everyone. The idea is to light the fireworks precisely at midnight, but since clocks are not synchronized, the madness begins at around 10 to midnight. Imagine 10 million people lighting all sorts of fireworks at the same time! That is precisely what happens in Lima and all cities and villages in Peru. And it goes on for about an hour.
But not everything is beautiful with fireworks. The fireworks madness in Peru turned into tragedy during the holiday season of 2004. A firework chain reaction at the largest market in the country trapped and burnt about 400 people. Because of that, now exploding fireworks are banned in Peru.
Although there are fewer exploding fireworks now, and for a good reason, there are still many kinds of safer fireworks available. Peruvians have started to be more careful with fireworks, and since 2004 there have not been any major issues. So now families can gladly and safely enjoy fireworks on Christmas Eve. It’s just a beautiful experience you don’t want to miss.
Read on for two more Peruvian Christmas customs: Eating Panettone and Drinking Hot Chocolate.
OK. I tried. But again, I can’t describe how incredible the experience is. So here’s a video of fireworks on Christmas Eve in Lima (I recommend watching till the end with the volume as high as you can for a more realistic effect):