The best holiday tradition you’ve never heard of: Venezuelans roller skating to Christmas Mass at sunrise

Publication: 
America: The Jesuit Review
Release Date: 
November 18, 2021

Las patinatas, “the skating,” “is most definitely real,” the Venezuelan-born Coromoto Power told me by phone from England, where she and her mother Beatrix now live. “It’s like a mini-festival. There’s just loads of people that turn up in a park, and there’s music. Imagine Central Park, with its paths and so on, and you skate around and sing Christmas songs.”

Is there a lot of drinking? I wonder, thinking of some memorable ice skating events in the Midwest. No, Beatrix clarifies. “It’s a family affair. It’s for kids. It would be coffee and hot chocolate, soft drinks, juice.” It turns out there is no real need for hot toddies in December in Caracas, as it is the height of summer.

While the practice sounds quite secular, Beatrix explained to me that in fact, the all-night roller skating is very much tied to the Catholic faith. “It’s normally the nine days before Christmas (although others do it just on the weekend or on Sunday—with people working and in school, it’s a bit more difficult). You go skating all night, and then to what is called Misa de gallo—the cockerel’s Mass, because it’s at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning."

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