Holiday festivities in Colombia
Christmas in Colombia is a bit different from the Christmas I’m used to in the United States. For Colombians, this is one of the biggest times of the year.
Most Colombians start decorating for Christmas before Halloween has even passed. November in Medellin is spend getting ready for an event they call Alborada. Midnight of November 31st, starts the unofficial tradition. They skies become lit up by fireworks all over the city. Unfortunately, due to poor control and planning of the fireworks, at least 10 Colombians are injured every year. That doesn’t stop them though! Authorities have attempted to stop this tradition for years, but to no avail. Nothing can stop the spirit of a Colombian!
The official festivities start on the 7th of December, in all of the country.
This day is called The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, La Virgen de la Inmaculada, or commonly as Candles day, Día de las velitas.
On this day, friends, families, and neighbors meet together to light candles in the streets. The purpose for this tradition is to guide the path to their houses, so that the Virgin Mary can bless them and their property. If you would like to know more about Candles Day, Click Here. We even had our own Candles Day here at Whee Institute!
One of the most important Christmas traditions in Colombia is something called the Novena. It starts on the 16th of December, and is every night from then up until Christmas, a total of 9 nights. The tradition is for neighbors to get together, and some communities even collaborate to have each night in a different house, and then they all gather and sing songs and hymns and prayers. On the 24th, the last day of Novena, they dedicate it specifically to baby Jesus.
What with Colombia being more of a religious country, it’s more baby Jesus than Santa Claus. Families always put up the Pesebre, which is the display of baby Jesus in the Manger. Of course they still do the traditional Christmas tree, but the main focus is on the Pesebre. For the children, it’s about writing a letter to Baby Jesus about what they want for Christmas; of whom comes the 24th. Christmas in Colombia is celebrated on the 24th, with tons of games, food, and dancing. There is a specific name for the games they play on the 24th, and that’s Alguinaldos. They are mainly very silly, ranging from Tres Pies, where you have a partner, and you have to stick your leg in between your partners’ and if you’re successful, you are awarded points. There’s also one called Sí y No, where you cannot say yes or no the whole game. Another popular one is with straws. You are given a partner for the day, and whenever they want, they can tell you to put a straw in your mouth, and vice versa. If you do not, the other is awarded points. Sometimes toys and prizes are given to the winners to make the atmosphere more fun and dramatic. On the 24th there is also something called the Noche Buena, which is the giant feast at night with loads of typical Colombian foods.
The 25th is normally spent with hangovers, playing games, and eating leftovers from the day before. But that’s not where the holiday festivities stop. In most citites and towns, they have different events going on the whole week until New Years. December 28th is what they call día de los innocentes, innocent’s day. It’s basically the opposite of what it sounds like, as there is nothing innocent about it. This day, Colombians play all kinds of jokes and pranks on each other; the equivalent of April Fool’s day in United States. Even the news stations get on board, by showing funny news, or covering some of the citizens’ pranks.
Some say that New Years is even bigger than Christmas. Colombians play around with illegal fireworks, drink, and do many different traditions. Some of the more popular superstitions are to take a backpack and run around the neighborhood, wishing for amazing adventures in the upcoming year. Others are eating 12 grapes in the last seconds of the year, one grape for each month in the next year, and making a different wish for each grape you eat. One of my favorites is to pour champagne all over your body right at midnight, signifying prosperity. Or, if you don’t feel like pour a good cup of champagne and you’d rather drink it, another superstition to bring prosperity to the new year, is by wearing yellow underpants.
Colombia is quite the country when it comes to celebrating the Christmas holidays. If you find yourself in Colombia for these days, try to make your way over to the coastal regions. There is where you’ll find the most spirit!