Noche Buena is my favorite night of the year. I have a BIG Cuban family and getting everyone together the night before Christmas is always eventful.
Noche Buena is celebrated on December 24th. Every family has their own traditions and I love to see them. Here are some we do in my family:
- The Pig! El puerco is the centerpiece of Noche Buena. Some people make it in the oven but most make it in La Caja China. The most important part is to get the skin nice and crispy for some yummy chicharrones.
- Our Noche Buena consists of 25 to 35 people. Immediate family, extended family, and anyone that wants to tag along. We do a potluck style filled with Cuban classics like rice, beans, and yuca.
- Prayer. Before we get to eat, we always say a prayer. Christmas is a wonderful time to reflect and look at everything we have to be thankful for. This prayer usually ends up with someone crying but it is a beautiful way to start the night.
- Santa comes! Every year we have someone (usually a grandpa or uncle) dress up in a costume. Then he hands out gifts to the kids from extended family members.
- White Elephant! The adults get to have fun too. Everyone is asked to bring 1 wrapped present. It can be funny or something you know people will really want. This ensures that everyone goes home with a gift and it is a really fun game to play.
Noche Buena as a Parent
I have such vivid memories of Noche Buena as a kid. I remember running around with my cousins, getting all dressed up, and being so excited that Christmas was right around the corner. As kids, the adults would torture us. They would eat extremely slowly (at least the kids felt that was the case) and make us wait to open gifts. Now, as a parent, Noche Buena is so much better. I get to be on the other side (I try not to eat slowly, I promise). I get to see their little faces light up when Santa comes in. I get to see them laugh and run around with their cousins. Christmas goes to a whole new level when you become a parent.
The Morning After
After all the kids are tucked in, Santa does his magic! I remember my grandpa always recording our reactions on his camcorder. Now, I love capturing the surprised little faces as they walk into the living room. After presents, it is time for breakfast! Everyone slowly shows up with their signature dish and before we know it, we have a full buffet. It is just another reason to get together and enjoy the Christmas season.
I have so many fond memories of the past 32 Noche Buenas I have been a part of. Who wouldn’t be happy surrounded by family, music, and yummy food??
Updated December 2023