In Panama, Christmas traditions are a mix of both Spanish and American traditions, due to the country's close connections with both countries. Traditional activities during the Christmas season include holding Las Posadas, which are neighborhood processions re-enacting Mary and Joseph's journey. Some homes are decorated with outdoor Christmas light displays, influenced by American holiday traditions.
Nativity scenes are a major part of the Christmas celebration in Panama. Families put out small nativity scenes in their homes, while local churches set up large, elaborate displays. Las Posada is a popular tradition derived from Central and South American countries. During Las Posadas, two people dressed as the biblical Joseph and Mary, along with a group of processioners, go door-to-door in the neighborhood looking for a place to stay. One home is chosen to accommodate Mary and Joseph, and the whole neighborhood celebrates with music, pinatas and food.
At midnight on Christmas Eve, fireworks are set off to celebrate the start of Christmas. Nighttime street celebrations and feasts are held all over Panama. The holiday season isn't over until Jan. 6, when the children celebrate Dia de los Reyes, or the Epiphany. On this day, children receive small gifts, which symbolize the presents the Magi left for baby Jesus in biblical lore.