This note, which turned up on Caracas Chronicles’ Facebook page, may be the weirdest thing I’ve seen all week.

Reader’s Digest
We are researching a piece for Reader’s Digest UK about interesting or bizarre Christmas traditions around the world.

We were hoping that you could help us clarify a tradition we heard about in Venezuela. I read that on Christmas morning in Caracus, people roller skate to church. I also read that children tie a piece of string around their toe when they go to bed, and they put the other end out of the window, for people to pull when they roller skate past.

Would you be able to verify this tradition, or provide us with any more information about it? I hope that it does happen, and isn’t just a joke, because it sounds great fun! If you knew of any photographs showing this tradition, then it would be great if you could also let me know.

Is this a thing? Really? The theory is floating around the Intertoobz but I’ve never ever heard of it before…

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  1. Roller skating at night used to be a tradition around Christmas time, though I’m not sure about the church part. Los Caobos was a favorite in the sixties. Irrelevant now: it’s been wiped out by security issues. I have no idea about the string but it would only be feasible in the old parts of Caracas with row houses and sidewalk fronts, not with front yards and rejas.

    • Salían, ahora los que salen son los malandros. La cuerdita quizás es una referencia a las tangas…en tiempos de Navidad hay más de esas en las playas venezolanas.

    • Delicioso artículo! Y por lo menos pegué dos cosas: Los Caobos (que recuerdo) y la necesidad de casas con ventanas que dan a la calle para que funcione la cabulla despertador (que nunca conocí).

      Lamentablemente, las exhortaciones de Oscar Yanez para resucitar las patinatas, el cañonazo en la Plaza Bolívar, el panadero que dejaba el pan en la puerta, etc. son menos viables ahora que nunca, aunque quizás el caballo de Bolívar le haga caso.

  2. Sounds like someone is out to lunch on this one, but I have seen some strange Christmas and New Year’s traditions around the world. In Panama, and (I have heard) smaller towns in parts of Colombia, the people make life-size dolls each of the residents in the houses and put the “muñecas” in front of their houses along the street. They dress them in some of their old clothing. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, they blow up the muñecas with firecrackers.

    I suppose it is a type of ritual purification and symbolic destruction of past mistakes or bad luck, allowing everyone to start the new year with a clean slate. In any case, the first time I saw all the muñecas families along the roadsides, it seemed just weird and spooky.

    • That’s a Central American thing. We in Honduras burn the a monigote which symbolizes the old year. It’s rather therapeutic to watch the crappy old year go up in flames. Sometimes the doll is made up to look like a personality from that year. In 2009 Mel Zelaya was a favorite doll figure.

  3. Ecuadorians burn you … or at least a doll of you, so that the new year brings you good luck. They do it on New Years Day (after el cañonazo) and since the doll is supposed to be someone known in the family they also made a poem that makes fun of all the members of the family and friends visiting that house.

    In 2001 some Ecuadorian friends “burned me” (me quemaron) and I got a good job next year…

  4. For years my friends and I went to Midnight Mass (Misa de Gallo) in roller skates.

    Every year, Father Casanova (yes, his real name and no, he didn’t look the part) would get on his high holy horse and make us out to be the worst of the worst for doing so. We would take shoes along for the “ride”, and take them off once inside, but we always made certain to skate down the aisle first, just to rile up the priest.

    As for the string, never heard of that one, but if Oscar Yanes wrote about it it must be true.

    I guess I must be old, because I do remember doing a lot of what he wrote about in that piece!

    In my neighborhood we would block off the street one night, and everyone would go roller skating, young and not so young. Many would open their homes and have coffee and hot chocolate, the arepitas dulces de anis and even the first hallacas of the season on hand for any who walked up.

    Thanks for the link, Cal!

  5. A reliable native informant has told me that this was a common practice in a small town in the Andes in the sixties, especially to avert the vigilance of zealous parents. If necessary, the cords were long enough to reach the ground from the second floor of a house.

  6. Good Lord! I do remember going to a lot of patinatas, but I had never heard this thing about the “cabuya amarrada al dedo gordo.” I laughed my ass out on this extract from Yanez’ piece, especially the part involving the chinese guy:

    “El galán, ya conocedor del truco, llegaba en la madrugada y no tocaba, sino que halaba la cuerda y la moza al sentir que el dedo se le movía, se levantaba más alegre que chino en tranvía, porque llegó la hora del patinaje.”

    In December 1977, I went for a week to a camp in a small island formed by the Tamanaco dam in Guarico. When me and my brother came back to Caracas, there was a huge patinata going on in Santa Paula where we lived. When we got there, it was about 8:00 pm. We didn’t go back home until the next day! Oh well, I guess those days are long gone …

    • I was there, mano.

      I used to skate down the hill to the redoma de Santa Paula, where they used to sell firecrackers. We would then hitch on to a car bumper to get a ride up the hill.

      One year, some goon lit off a Roman Candle (bombeador) and all the kiosks caught fire, somehow no one got hurt and we got to see one hell of a show.

  7. The building in the corner of calle Venus. That’s where I used to live. My brother and I used to steal my mother’s car to hitch people up to the top of the hill. Cheers!


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