Paraguayan traditions: Christmas is coming…

manger scene with mbocaya flowerYesterday, when I came home after work I saw that my wife, together with one of my sisters-in-law, put up a beautiful pesebre, or manger scene, in a corner of our living room. Near the sofa was a neatly decorated (but obviously artificial) Christmas tree. On the porch there were some Christmas lights turned on, and there was a wreath on the front porch.

The manger scene included the traditional figures of a nativity scene, and is prepared according to our traditions. You have to put the manger scene on a “hill”, that is, boxes covered with painted manila paper and maybe with glued sand, too. You would put Mary, baby Jesus and Joseph at the manger, together with the ox and the donkey; outside, the Magi, shepherds, and a lot of farmers and peasants. On top, the Star of Bethlehem and the angel singing the Gloria in excelsis. As background, a bush known as ka’avove’i serves as decoration. Some families like to put Christmas tree decorations on the bushes, too.

The manger scene is usually surrounded by summer fruits, such as pineapples, watermelons, melons, grapes, and others; but most especially, the one item that must be present at all costs is the flower of the mbocaya palm tree, known to Paraguayans simply as “coconut tree” (Acrocomia totai Mart.; image of grown tree). This flower has a pungent and fragrant smell that is indelibly associated in my mind to Christmas.

The photo at the upper left corner (courtesy from the ABC Color newspaper) depicts a manger scene with the mbocaya flower prominently displayed. Be advised that this manger scene is not representative of traditional practice. I’ll try to locate better pictures as soon as possible.

So, when I came home yesterday, I was greeted by the sweet smell of the mbocaya flower, while my smiling wife took me by hand to see the manger scene. It was beautiful, simple, and in good taste; a reminder that Christ is honored as Lord of our house. For all that I thank Him with a grateful heart.


  1. I’m doing a spanish christmas project and have to find the differences between Paraguay and Colombia Christmases? Could you help me so far I have the Coco Tree Flower, Chipa, Paraguayan Soup, a procession in Tobati (with mask). All the other traditions are the same.

    If you could help I’d appreciate it very much.


  2. Nicky: Thanks for your comment. I’d gladly help, but I don’t know about Christmas traditions in Colombia. I wish you the best in your project.

  3. I’m doing a project on a Paraguayan Christmas and so I’m wondering if you could help me.

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