How do you give a Latin touch to your Navidad? Using Hispanic Christmas ornaments. This is a very special way to enjoy your holidays Latino style. Every year we take out the various sets we have collected through our different trips to Latin America, and while enjoying hot chocolate with freshly made bunuelos and empanadas, we, as a family place the ornaments on the Christmas tree and around the house.
I tend to favor two places in our home to display the handmade Hispanic ornaments, one is the Christmas tree porsupuesto, and the other one is the dining table. One idea is to select some of the best and dear ornaments to display them in a glass bowl as a center piece. This makes the ornaments the focal point and bring a sutil, yet clear Hispanic touch to your home.
Here are some of the most sought after ornaments grouped by the materials they are made of. These materials are specific to some countries and regions depending on the artisan’s tradition and the climate of the country, that allows the usage of fibers, clay, and plants to make them.
Mexican, Peruvian and Guatemalan artisans are the masters of using clay to mold into beautiful Hispanic Christmas ornaments. Making them by hand, one by one, to create art is an ancient tradition.
Latin American artisans dream of you having a piece of their beloved artwork in your home. Pottery and clay working is one of the most popular folk art throughout Latin America.
Before the arrival of the Spaniards, Hispanic artists used to cook the earthware at low temperatures in the bonfire. The arrival of the Spaniards brought kilns and mineral glazes. methods that artisans use until today.
Figures to decorate your tree can range from typical pre-Inca items like whistles to a small nativity inside a clay bubble. Images of Jesus and the holy family tend to have indigenous faces making them truly unique.
Paper ornaments? Yes, they are beutifully hand crafted, many from recycled paper. Most ornaments mix recycled paper with materials like beads and cotton which are native of the region.
For example, some artisans give finishing touches with granadillo beads that come from a tree. Its wood is hard and reddish in color. Many call it coyote or Macacauba. Also, materials like chochos, tagua and seeds in general frequently become excellent additions to the ornaments.
Cotton is a fiber Latin American tribes started cultivating and using 5,000 years ago. These fibers’ cultivation was widespread in North America, the Caribbean and South America.
Knowing this, it is not surprising to find many handmade cotton ornaments. What is different in these ornaments is the delicate work of the artisans. In many occasions, they use pigments or treat the fibers themselves by hand to give the ornaments a unique appeal.
Interwoven fabrics with colorful patterns that reflect indigenous designs, hand painted rose cheeks or hand made dresses are some of the elements you can find in Hispanic cotton ornaments that you probably won’t find in other types of ornaments in the same price range.
Andean ornaments reflect the colors and traditions of the geographical area. Anyone who knows a bit about the Andes can think of the greenery of the mountains, the lakes, the llamas, the musical instruments like quenas and Charangos and the fabrics that show stripes and geometrical patterns.
That is exactly what Andean ornaments bring, a strong piece of Latino culture mixed with religious influence to render very particular designs.
You won’t see much silver or gold in these Hispanic Christmas ornaments, instead, you will encounter bold blues, reds, yellows and greens along earth tones on the clothes of the small figures.
Christmas carolers dressed in typical Andean attires, brown indigenous faces, bells made of clay instead of gold, straw angels, wicker snowflakes, and cultural elements embedded in each piece, is what makes these ornaments culturally rich.
Pine Needle Ornaments
Many tribes in Latin America use pine needles not only to create Christmas ornaments but also to make baskets, bags, containers, bracelets and even jewelry. Hispanic artisans are particularly skilled using pine needles. Those who work with pine needles come from a weaving family tradition, and pass down this tradition to their heirs.
The best Hispanic ornaments that use these materials frequently depict small baskets, bags or Christmas figures designed with Latin American culture touches through color or imagery.
How Are the Typical Latin Ornaments?
It is hard to say. It depends on the shape and the materials our artisans use to make the little works of art. What is interesting is how you can associate some Hispanic Christmas ornaments to a certain country, depending on the material and the shape of the figures.
In recent years many travelers, especially eco travelers, are eager to bring tribal ornaments from Latin American countries. This desire stems from people wanting to enjoy, preserve and protect cultures.
Why is that? Because folk art is a direct expression of a culture’s belief system and traditions. For some of our Latin American countries, art creating and specially ceramic work, wood carving and natural fiber crafts, is simply a way of life.
In the majority of countries, Christmas ornaments reflect strong indigenous traditions that were mixed with Christian imposed beliefs at the time of the conquest. Latin artisans use clay, wood, gourd and natural fibers like bark, agave, pine needles, alpaca, yute, and cotton to make detailed decorations at incredibly affordable prices when you consider they are not machine made.
Colors are spectacularly bright. Reds, blues, yellows, and strong earth tones are common. Shapes tend to follow geometrical lines, like those inspired on the Inca, Maya, and other tribes in Mesoamerica. They also use Catholic images on traditional indigenous characters, giving these Hispanic Christmas ornaments their personality.
No matter which material you prefer for your ornaments, when you purchase an authentic Hispanic Christmas ornament you are not only enjoying a creative work of art, but also you are bringing into your home a piece of Latin culture for your children to embrace.