World Cup fans react when Argentina scores a goal in overtime in Argentina’s match against Switzerland at Gibraltar pub in San Telmo. The crowd was noticeably tense during the actual game and into overtime as the game languished in a tie. With only two minutes left in overtime, Lionel Messi led the charge flanked by Swiss defense to pass to Angel Di Maria for a goal, causing elated fans to jump out of their seats in pubs across Buenos Aires. With the win, Argentina moves into the quarter finals.
The Day of Kings (El Día de los Reyes Magos) on January 6, marks an exciting end to the Christmas season for children in Argentina.
Though Christmas in Argentina is more about food and fiesta than gift giving, the kids make out with some good loot on the Day of Kings, which marks the day of the Christian Epiphany on the twelfth day of Christmas.
The event commemorates the visit of Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar who followed a star to Bethlehem from the east to bring gifts and celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Argentina’s Catholic tradition dictates that children write a letter to the Three Wise Men (aka Kings of the Orient) with their list of wishes and then leave their shoes under the Christmas Tree or by the door on the Night of Kings (Noche de Reyes, January 5). They also put out some water and grass for the three kings’ camels before they go to bed.
On the magical morning, children who have been good all year discover that the camels ate their rations and the Three Wise Men left gifts.
In some, usually more rural, neighborhoods there is also a Three King’s Parade on the Day of Kings, in which the Wise Men march through in ancient-style robes accompanied by various servants, soldiers and other characters to give out toys and candy to the children.
In Argentina’s small towns and in the countryside the festivities may be more elaborate with gauchos, or Argentine cowboys, dressed up as the biblical kings riding through town on horseback.
In Buenos Aires the Three Kings visit children’s hospital wards and sometimes make an appearance at Plaza Mariano Moreno in front of the Congress building, before parading down Avenida de Mayo to the Plaza de Mayo.
What is Christmas like in Buenos Aires? With fireworks, warm temperatures, calorie-laden food, and dancing until dawn, Navidad in Buenos Aires is a party that is literally not for the faint of heart.
It may be Christmas but It’s Hot as Hades!
Christmas falls in summer in the southern hemisphere, so traditions such as Santa Claus in full regalia, real pine trees and Christmas stories around the fire do not translate temperature-wise, making Christmas a mash-up of European traditions and Latin American summertime partying with family, friends and feasting.
The main day of celebration in Argentina is on Christmas Eve and the evening plays out in a manner oddly similar to New Year’s Eve in other predominately Christian countries.
Argentine Christmas: Religion vs Commercialism
The Christmas season is nicely contained by specific religious dates in Argentina. It starts on the Fiesta de la Virgen (Day of the Immaculate Conception) on December 8th, a Catholic holiday revering Mary. On this day families put out a nativity scene, a faux Christmas tree and string up lights and decorations.
Argentines are mainly Roman Catholics but most celebrate Christmas in a secular manner. Church bells ring at midnight on Christmas, but in urban areas not many people attend midnight Mass. Those who want to go to Mass, but not miss the toast at midnight head to church earlier in the day. The best place to attend midnight mass in Buenos Aires is the Catedral Metropolitana, where former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (aka Pope Francis) led mass for many years until being chosen as the new pontiff.
Most people celebrate at home with friends and family, but those with no talent or time to cook may go to one of the many restaurants that offer a fixed-price menu on Christmas Eve. Argentines will celebrate at any cost and restaurants take full advantage – eating out on Christmas Eve comes at a premium.
Those planning to dine out will want to make reservations in advance. Attire at your average Christmas party or restaurant in Palermo on Christmas Eve is semi-formal, with women donning summer dresses and men wearing a button up shirt, and weather permitting, a sport coat.
Papá Noel (aka Santa Claus) & Gifts
Unlike in many other South American countries, children in Argentina do write cards to Santa Claus. The range and money spent on gifts depends on the family but is usually modest compared to more consumer-oriented nations.
Argentina being a nocturnal country, no one bothers to send children to bed with threats that Santa won’t come if they don’t — instead they find a way to distract them, at which point Mr. and Mrs. Claus place gifts under the tree.
The money spent on gifts depends on the socio-economic level of the family, the rate of inflation and the state of the nation. Most of the gift giving is focused on younger children. Families with older kids often exchange one gift with each member of the family.
Purchasing gifts for friends is optional, although bringing food or drinks to share at gatherings is a common courtesy. An exception on the gift front are small token gifts — girlfriends sometimes present pink underwear as a gift to single gal-pals for good luck in finding love in the New Year.
Everyone toasts Merry Christmas at midnight on Nochebuena,(Christmas Eve) and gifts are opened afterward.
Christmas in Argentina, and especially Buenos Aires, most resembles New Year’s when midnight strikes, everyone toasts and the skies alight with fireworks. Plan to be somewhere secure and strategic at this hour to watch the fireworks.
In some neighborhoods the streets can resemble a war zone around midnight, with firecrackers popping everywhere, sirens blaring, a few stragglers on the sidewalk and dogs running panicked.
In Buenos Aires, the adventurous may make their way to the Obelisco or a park to watch the fireworks display.
Another classic — if slightly dangerous tradition — is to launch paper globes with candles in the air. Due to the fire hazard, this is seen less in Buenos Aires’ neighborhoods and more in other areas of the country.
In recent years there has been a backlash against fireworks of any kind, especially after a polar bear died at the Palermo Zoo in 2012 due to heat combined with the stress of the exploding skies. Thankfully, partly in response the to Polar Bear’s death, the zoo has been converted to an Eco Park. Also, as the headlines report at the end of every year, there are a few hundred injuries across the country caused by pyrotechnics, so their unsupervised use is waning.
Those who are firework-adverse may want to consider going to more rural parts of the country, such as Patagonia, where they have been banned for many years.
Christmas Eve Transportation Tips
It is important for visitors to know that in Buenos Aires there is little to no public transportation between the hours of 9 p.m. until at least 3 a.m. Those who need to get to a destination by bus or taxi, need to remember to travel outside these hours or risk getting stranded.
It is good idea to stay off the roads during the party hours anyway — drunk driving is still a big problem in Argentina, and there are few police patrolling the streets on Christmas.
The Christmas Eve After Party
Private Christmas Eve parties in Buenos Aires stretch until at least 3 a.m., even in the most conservative of homes. Bars and clubs start to open at around 2-3 a.m. for Christmas Eve after-parties.
On Christmas Day some are nursing hangovers or suffering sleep deprivation. The day resembles New Year’s Day in other countries, with family and friends going around to visit each other while recovering from the night before.
If you love the loud ‘4th of July-style’ Christmas in Argentina, you can look forward to doing it all over again one week later, on New Year’s Eve.
The Day of Kings on January 6 marks the official end of the Christmas season in Argentina.
Every August it’s time to put on a sultry face and slide into a tight embrace on the dance floor at the Buenos Aires’ Tango Festival.
At this yearly tango festival, tango aficionados and international visitors enjoy live tango orchestras, dance shows and competitions, tango-related films, art exhibitions and of course milongas (dance parties), celebrating Argentina’s most famous dance.
The free two week event is hailed as the world’s largest tango-related festival with 2,000 performers and nearly half a million visitors. This larger event is preceded by the citywide Buenos Aires Tango Championship, held every May — this year from the 9th to the 20th.
Bailongo in Buenos Aires
Although today considered one of the country’s most sophisticated cultural exports, tango was born at the end of the 19th century in the working class portside neighborhood of La Boca. An immigrant community of mostly struggling, single European men meant there was a dearth of women at the time.
Men danced with each other to practice for the day they might have the chance to seduce one of the few single ‘ladies of the night’ available. Because of tango’s early association with crime, the outlaw language of lunfardo and poverty, upper crust Argentines originally turned up their noses at the dance.
Once the sounds and moves of tango exploded in Europe in the early 20th century, wealthy and middle class Argentines co-opted the once underground sound and began composing more purified tangos, bringing the sexy dance into their ballrooms.
Since the 1990’s tango has experienced a new renaissance in Buenos Aires and worldwide. UNESCO included tango on their Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2009.
Throughout the festival there is a variety of open milongas allowing the public to dance to the live sounds of traditional tango orchestras, tangotronica DJ’s and tango-inspired fusión groups .
Among the living tango greats who have hit the stage here are Saúl Cosentino with his avant-garde tango tunes akin to Piazolla; Bandoneon virtuoso, Julio Pane; and composer and the former bandoneonist for Alfredo Gobbi, Alberto Garralda. Other performances include an homage to Grammy winner, Leopoldo Federico, who performed at last year’s Tango Festival and then died at 87 a few months later, and a retrospective of Russian tango of the ’20s and ’30s performed by the Belamor Kanal Quartet. Bringing more modern tango sounds are acts such as Cumbre de Contrabajista (Summit of Stand-up Bassists) and French composer, guitarist and singer, Brian Chambouleyron (on a double bill with the aforementioned Alberto Garralda).
For those who dream to dance tango like they own the floor, the festival hosts dance classes and talks with local dancefloor legends such as Milena Plebs, Sebastián Arce, María Nieves, Julio Balmaceda y Corina de la Rosa, Fernando Galera, Vilma Vega and 82-year-old Juan Carlos Copes.
World Tango Competition
The festival culminates in the Tango World Cup in which the world’s best tangueros compete on stage for prestige and cash prizes in the Salon Tango and Stage Tango Competitions at Luna Park.
All the activities and shows at the Tango Festival are free. Tickets for Tango World Cup are first come, first serve, and will be given out at the Casa de Cultura, Av. de Mayo 575. There is a two ticket limit per person. The 2018 date to pick up tickets has not yet been announced.
For all other limited seating events, tickets are given out beginning two hours before the show.
To see a day-by-day breakdown of the Tango Festival events and the World Championship Dance competition see the Buenos Aires Culture Department’s official webpage linked below.
Tango BA 2018: Citywide championship competition
Buenos Aires Tango Festival & World Cup 2018
Buenos Aires Culture Department Festival Page
• Tel: . 0-800-333-7848 (Mon-Fri 10a.m.-8p.m)
→ Check out other tango tours and activities to learn the dance or check out the city’s milongas with a local.
→ Book safe airport transfer and reserve your accommodation online to save money — you get the 21% VAT tax back when you book online with a credit card.
→ See our suggestions, ‘What to Pack for Argentina.‘
Tango Festival Venues
Av. Corrientes y Bouchard
• Tel: 5279-5279
• Bus: 4, 6, 20, 22, 23, 26, 28, 33, 45, 50, 54, 56, 61, 62, 74, 91, 93, 99, 105
• Subway: Línea B, L.N. Alem stop
Subte: Line D: Tribunales stop; Line B: Carlos Pellegrini stop; Line C: Diagonal Norte stop
Av Corrientes 1639
Subte: Line D, Callao; Line B Uruguay stop or 9 de Julio; Line C Diagonal Norte
• Usina del Arte
Av. Don Pedro de Mendoza 501 (corner of A. Caffarena)
Bus: 4, 8, 20, 25, 29, 33, 53, 64, 86, 129, 130, 152, 159, 168, 195
•Museo del Cine
Agustín Caffarena 51
Bus:4, 8, 20, 25, 29, 33, 46, 53, 64, 86, 129, 130, 152, 159, 168, 195
•Teatro de La Ribera/La Milonga del Dique
Av. Don Pedro de Mendoza 1821
Bus:8, 20, 25, 29, 33, 46, 53, 64, 86, 129, 152, 159
•Espacio Cultural Adán Buenosayres
Av. Asamblea 1200
•Espacio Cultural Julián Centeya
Ave. San Juan 3255
•Teatro 25 de Mayo
Av Triunvirato 4444
Bus: 71, 112, 114, 127, 133, 176
Subte: Line B, Echeverría Stop
Just around the corner from the Plaza de Mayo is the sleek Casa Rosada Museum. This museum was built in 2010 and originally called the Bicentenary Museum to commemorate 200 years since the start of the revolution that led to Argentina’s independence.
The sprawling museum is below street level, and lies on the spot where the first fort in Buenos Aires was built in 1580. The original brickwork is still visible in the museum and makes for a stunning reminder of the building’s history.
Historical Videos in the Casada Rosada Museum
Inside the museum visitors can watch Spanish-language videos of different periods of Argentine history. Important artifacts such as clothing and objects of some of Argentina’s most popular political figures such as Eva and Juan Perón are also on display.
Non-Spanish speakers may find themselves a little lost by the videos, but they shouldn’t feel bad. Even for those with a vague idea of Argentine history might find it difficult to fully understand which liberator was which, and which coup happened when – which serves to highlight Argentina’s complicated political history.
The museum ends on a patriotic hopeful note, with footage of the late Nestor Kirchner and videos, which emphasize the changes he made during his presidency. The message seems to be ‘Everything is okay now, we’ve sorted out all the country’s problems.’
Interestingly, no extra footage or objects have been added since Nestor’s death nor of his wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s presidency.
Plaza de Mayo Through the Years
Close to the entrance a video shows images of the Plaza de Mayo changing over the years, which is accessible for non-Spanish speakers and gives a visual insight into historical changes in the square.
A principle point of interest at the Casa Rosada Museum is the 1933 mural Ejercicio plástico, by Mexican, David Aflaro Siqueiros. It was originally painted in journalist Natalia Botano’s basement, and excavated in its entirety to the museum.
The architecturally impressive, if propagandist, museum is worth a stroll through after taking in the Casa Rosada tour around the corner. -Rosie Hilder
Casa Rosada/Bicentenary Museum
Paseo Colón 100
Hours: Weds – Sun & holidays:
(April-Nov) 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
(Dec – March) 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
• Entrance: free
• Spanish language only