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G rowing up in the American Midwest, I was accustomed to a snowy, white Christmas, but now that I’ve moved to Nicaragua, I am adjusting to decorating my Christmas tree in 90-degree weather and seeing lights strung on palm trees. The only white Christmas I’m getting for now is the one sung by Bing Crosby.

While the Nicaraguan Christmas traditions have much in common with those of the U.S.—food and family—there are several differences as well.

The big day of celebration is not on December 25, but on December 24, Christmas Eve. The day is spent chopping, cooking, and preparing the traditional gallina con relleno (chicken with stuffing). It is most often the women who are in the kitchen while the men wait earnestly for dinner time, around 9:00 p.m. on this special day, tortured by the aromatic smells of stewing ingredients. The children impatiently skirt around the presents under the tree, knowing they have to wait until midnight before opening them.

Once the family is gathered around the table, we share in the delicious food and revel in the joy of Christmas. If a neighbor passes by, they will surely leave with a plate in hand. No one goes hungry on Christmas. We remember the many ways we have been blessed over the past year and remember the miracle of the birth of Christ.

The tradition is to wait until midnight to step out into the street and set off fireworks or light sparklers, greeting the neighbors with well wishes. Once the sparklers have fizzled and the fireworks around the neighborhood have died down, the children rush back inside and beg their parents to open gifts. 

The Christmas festivities wrap up around one or two in the morning, when everyone wanders off to bed to get some sleep. On December 25, Christmas Day, most people sleep in until late morning before getting up for lunch, leftovers from the night before.

Featured recipe

Relleno (Stuffing)


  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into pieces
  • 1 lb. of pork filet or pork shoulder, cut into pieces
  • 1 loaf of bread
  • 1 liter of milk
  • 1 ½ cups butter
  • 1 cup green olives
  • ½ cup capers
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 cup dried plums
  • ½ onion, whole
  • 1 onion, minced
  • celery, chopped into small pieces
  • carrots, chopped
  • 1 ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup mustard
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

  • Cut bread into small pieces and soak it in the milk. Let it rest while you prepare the meat.
  • Boil the chicken with the carrots, ½ onion, and celery for about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and boil the pork for 20 minutes.
  • Blend together the soaked bread and milk. Set aside.
  • Once the chicken and pork are cooked, blend them separately and set aside.
  • In a large pan, melt the butter and cook the minced onion until translucent. Add the pork and stir. Then add the chicken. 
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Continue to stir to avoid burning.
  • Add the raisins and dried plums while continuing to stir.
  • Add the blended bread and milk, olives, and capers. Keep stirring so you get the right consistency. You should end up with a paste texture. 
  • Add in the ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Continue stirring until the condiments are well-mixed into the paste. 
  • Transfer to a plate and serve alongside roasted chicken. 

This recipe and reflection comes from RCA Global Mission missionaries as they share Christmas traditions from around the world. Enjoy these other holiday flavors and traditions:

Nicole Opgenorth

Nicole Opgenorth serves with RCA Global Mission and CEPAD (the Council of Protestant Churches of Nicaragua). She amplifies voices, fosters relationships, and shares stories of impact with supporters. Nicole also serves as a cultural and language translator for visiting groups. Learn more about her work.