The sun is out in Lima and temperatures are rising to their summer highs, which means only one thing: it’s time to drink hot chocolate.
Hot chocolate joins panetón, lechón and turkey in Peru’s canon of Christmas foods. However, this is a bit strange, as Christmas falls in early summer in Lima. As María Pía Barrientos writes in El Comercio, “Hot chocolate is a marvelous, thick and warming beverage capable of heating you up if you’re about to step out into one of the earth’s poles. No one questions its exquisite flavor. But does it really make sense to drink it when the sun finally comes out and we begin to suffocate in the heat?”
What makes it stranger is that hot chocolate is not a particularly popular drink during Lima’s winter months, when it would actually make sense to counter the cold.
The most logical explanation is that this is a Christmas tradition brought from abroad. In Spain, it is a custom to eat churros and drink hot chocolate around Christmas time, as the holiday falls in the winter. In the U.S., movie and television representations of Christmas frequently show revelers drinking the beverage. The fact this has caught on in Peru is an interesting reflection of cultural globalization.
By now, however, hot chocolate is fully enshrined as a Peruvian Christmas tradition. As Barrientos writes, “Even though drinking hot chocolate when summer begins can seem weird, it’s now a tradition among many Peruvians. This beverage tastes like home, like glory, even like Christmas, even if we don’t live in Europe or New York and there are no snow men or freezing temperatures.”