The Magic of Christmas Traditions in Colombia
Christmas traditions in Colombia are one of a kind. If you have never experienced a Colombian Christmas, you sure are missing out. The country is very Catholic, therefore Christmas in Colombia is still authentic and not yet so commercial compared to other countries.
6 years ago, I spent my first Christmas in Colombia and it couldn’t have been more traditional. Filled with Colombian Christmas traditions, we did everything on the list! This Christmas I look forward to time spent with family and filled with love. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?
Here are some Christmas traditions in Colombia that are unique to the country and that make holidays in unique and special.
Pesebre or Christmas tree?
The pesebre or in English, the nativity scene, is still very popular in households right alongside the Christmas tree. And with right reason, as the Christmas tree isn’t really native to this tropical country of non-existing seasons. Many families are very proud of their nativity scene and some even have a collection of pesebres to honor baby Jesus’s birth.
Día de las velitas
Does Christmas starts on December 7, 15 or 24? It’s hard to know as Colombian Christmas traditions start so early!
Christmas season doesn’t just last a week like in other countries, but the whole entire month!
Starting December 7, Colombians celebrate el día de las velitas to celebrate the Inmaculada Concepción de Maria.
It’s a beautiful event because as night falls, people light rows of candles to illuminate the path for the Virgin Mary to find her way to their homes and bless their loved ones.
But of course, for many Colombians this day is just another excuse to party and go out dancing till 5 AM.
Novenas: 9 days of Christmas
Starting December 15, every night for 9 days straight until Christmas Eve, family and friends gather round in the evening to pray and sing villancicos navideños, or Christmas songs.
It’s a good excuse to have dinner with friends and family every night and catch up with the people we love around music and a good meal. This is what I call 9 days of Christmas!
Christmas Eve: The Grand Finale!
And so what makes the 24th so special?
On the evening of the 24th, or Christmas Eve, the last villancico is sung and a big traditional Christmas dinner is shared.
Colombian Christmas food includes but is not limited to turkey, pork roast, tamal, ajiaco, buñuelo, natilla con mora and much more! Desserts usually consist of the traditional Colombian sweets.
After midnight or the morning of the 25th, El Niño Jesus hands out the presents (Santa Claus is still a commercial American marketing tactic) and family just hang out and digest the super duper Colombian dinner.
I must say that by Day 10 you are a living, breathing buñuelo just waiting for January 1st to swallow something healthy again.
And New Years?
El Año Viejo in Colombia was also a new experience for me. Traditionally spent with family, it’s more than dancing through the night.
Many families follow the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes before the clock strikes midnight, making a wish as each grape gets swallowed. Personally, I have never been able to succeed swallowing so many grapes in so little seconds no matter how seedless and skinless they are!
Once the clock strikes 12, another popular New Year’s tradition it to go around your block or house with an empty suitcase. This is another fun superstitious activity to wish you many travels in the following year.
And last but not least, families burn handmade dolls with the objective to burn the bad that happened in the previous year, giving a fresh clean slate for the year to come.
I was surprised to find out Colombia was so unique when it came to celebrating Christmas. Above all else, Christmas and December is a time to unite and share peace and love with family and friends, something which Colombians treasure and know how to do very well.