Christmas in Colombia is magical, full of traditions that include spending lots of time with family and friends, whilst remembering the significance of religion.
Whilst everyone has their unique Christmas and family traditions, the most common traditions celebrated in Colombia revolve around family and religion.
Dia or Noche de las Velitas
The 7th December marks the official start of the Christmas festivities with the Dia/Noche de las Velitas (Day or Night of the Candles). Celebrations start at around 7pm with many families lighting of candles, or setting off lanterns, whilst celebrating the start of the Christmas period with families, friends and neighbourhoods. The religious meaning of this day is that it signifies the arrival of the virgin, the candles are lit to make wishes to the virgin for the upcoming year, and also to give thanks for the blessings during the previous year. The celebrations continue into the 8th of December, with the day being a national holiday and the Feast of Immaculate Conception. Whilst every region in Colombia celebrates these two days slightly differently, some regions lighting candles at midnight, some at 7pm other regions light candles in specific places, but every region has the same belief for the day.
The first day of the Christmas Novena is December 16th, this is a time of religious devotion with private and public prayers said every night for 9 consecutive days from December 16th to Christmas Eve. During these times friends and families get together to say Novenas, sing carols with instruments, eat traditional Colombian foods, read versus from the bible and celebrate the arrival of Christmas. The evenings are usually hosted by different family member or friend each night, taking it in turns to host the event at their house.
Christmas Eve is the most important day in the Colombian Christmas calendar. Christmas Eve is the day in which family and friends gathering together to exchange presents, have a Christmas meal and celebrate the last Novena. In Colombia children receive presents from el niño Dios (baby Jesus) and open them at midnight on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day in Colombia is a relatively quiet day and a day to relax after Christmas Eve’s festivities; some families may attend a Christmas Day mass or gather together to have brunch or lunch. Many families leave the big cities on Christmas Day to travel to other parts of Colombia or around the world to have a holiday or meet up with other family members around the world or country.
Día de los Reyes Magos
Colombian Christmas tradition celebrates the Día de los Reyes Magos or The Day of the Three Kings on January 6th: this day is said to be the day the Three Kings visited baby Jesus and presented him with their gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. January 6th (or some years the closest Monday) is still considered a National Holiday in Colombia.
Every country has their Christmas traditions, every family also has their specific traditions and everyone celebrates Christmas slightly differently. Christmas still has the same meaning and purpose for most people: to celebrate the birth of Jesus with family and friends from near and far, to give thanks and share aspirations for the upcoming year.