Colombia is a country where people of many variegated cultural backgrounds coexist harmoniously together; and thus there are lots of different traditions, rituals and customs regarding every festival. In Colombia, the period stretching from late November to Christmas and New Year has a distinct purport for every individual Colombians. This festive time and jubilant spirit makes the tourists more familiar with some of the most beautiful aspects of this Latin country. Each Colombian has their own individual Christmas traditions it may be regarded as personal individual traditions or family traditions or regional wise traditions or national traditions. In every way the celebrations are unique and different, but they create a bond of sameness and fraternity throughout the hearts of countrymen.
In Colombia, Christmas preparations formally start from the evening of December 7. This day is also known or referred to as Dia de las Velitas or Day of the little Candles. Each individual household decorate their houses. Streets are also decorated and adorned with candles, lanterns and lots of multicoloured lights. On this day to mark the beginning of the festival, big firework displays are held in cities like Medellin and Bogota. People share their joy by dancing and playing music and serving delicacies like ‘bunuelos’ and ’empanadas’. This day is commemorated by Catholics as The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the day when Mary conceived Jesus. It is especially popular in Colombia.
On the next day, December 8th is a Catholic as well as national holiday in Colombia. And as this tradition falls on a national holiday, it is celebrated and commemorated variably in different regions of Colombia such as on the Carribbean coast the majority of population stay up until 3-4am only to light candles. While in Bogota and Medellin, lighting of candles commences from 7pm onward. Even the location and setting of the candles varies from region to region for example in Medellin people place the candles in the streets to create unique designs and in Barranquilla they decorate their windows in plastic farolitos. Thus all Colombians harmoniously celebrate the arrival of the Virgin. With each candle they make a wish to the Virgin for the upcoming year and thanks her for the blessings that she has bestowed during the year.
As a large percentage of Colombian population belongs to Catholic denomination, they also celebrate Advent, a Sunday, four weeks before Christmas. During this period many families often decorate their houses with embellished advent wreaths, made from evergreen sprigs, wax lights and ribbons. On each of the four Sundays following up to Christmas, carols are sung, prayers are offered and the candles on the advent wreaths are lit up. During this period, Christmas markets are held in many towns. In Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla and in several other cities the market is held in the large squares in front of the city halls, public places or in local markets.
Almost every small town in Colombia and even in the Andes has its own, at least a small Christmas market, dealing in Christmas decorations, accessories and snacks like roasted almonds, chocolate fruits and several others. One can feel the influence of German and Spanish cultures in these fairs. Throughout Colombia, in each town square and household, Christmas trees are adorned with multicolored embellishments and decorations, stars shaped out of candy and sweet is set up. Children also like to place cotton balls on the Christmas tree to represent snow. The Nativity scene or ‘pesebre’ is also an imperative Christmas decoration in every Colombian household. Candles of normally red and white and other colour lightsare displayed in windows or on balconies. In early days of December, children often write a letter to the baby Jesus. In that letter they ask for the presents they would like to have.
The letter is usually placed in the pesebre and they hope that Jesus will bring them presents on Christmas Eve. Another Colombian Christmas celebration is that of novenas. The word novena in literal sense means “ninth.” It is a certain type of Christmas gathering. It happens over the nine nights before Christmas. It ends on December 24th when the birth of Jesus is celebrated. Each novena is commemorated usually from December 16th to 24th.During this period, a special prayer is offered that is devoted chiefly to holy figures such as baby Jesus, Mother Mary, and Joseph and others. The novena tradition began in South American Catholicism. But recently it has developed into much more than a religious celebration.
People host close friends or family members or co-workers or classmates. . People also attend the novenas of their neighbours and friends. During a novena, people prepare traditional Colombian foods.They sing traditional Christmas music and tunes.This music is known as villancicos. Another Christmas tradition in Colombia, as in many Latin American countries, Christmas is celebrated on December 24th at midnight and into the early hours of the morning of December 25th. Children receive their presents from el nino Diosor God Child, there are no appearance of Santa Claus or Father Christmas. At midnight some families sit down for their Christmas dinner as well.
The main Christmas mean in every Colombian household is eaten on Christmas Eve night. It is called ‘Cena de Navidad’. The dishes often include pork stuffed with rice and peas, ham, turkey or a chicken soup and other popular delicacies around Christmas are cheesy fritters, arepas, and hojuelas and natilla, a set custard. After the Christmas Meal, many people oftenl go to a Midnight mass Church Service. Some people stay awake up all night playing Aguilados or some other indoor games.
On 28th December people celebrate and enjoy the Innocents Day. It is like April Fools Day. Family members shares lots of jokes with each other and have fun. TV stations often broadcast bloopers as well as the funny mistakes that people have made during the previous year. Christmas traditions vary all around the world, and Colombia has some of its own totally unique Christmas traditions and rituals that intensifies the jubilance of festive season.