From Medellín’s traditional Christmas lights—considered by National Geographic magazine as one of the 10 most amazing in the world—to the colorful and flavorful typical seasonal dishes filling Colombian tables, such as ajiaco santafereño, lechona, tamales, natilla, and buñuelos, there are many reasons why Colombia is a unique place to revel in the Christmas spirit.
Therefore, if you want your foreign friends to experience spending the holidays in our country, prepare their voices to sing Christmas carols, move their hips at family parties, eat until they are stuffed, embody the joy that characterizes us, and feel truly at home, we invite you to share this interesting information about Christmas in Colombia with them, as the country has become the preferred destination to celebrate the holiday season.
Colombian Christmas traditions
- In Colombia, the Christmas season lasts more than a month! This is no exaggeration, because it officially starts on December 7th, when the country is lit up by candles, and ends on January 6th with the celebration of the Three Kings. It goes without saying that some people don’t want to wait, so they begin decorating the tree in November, to awaken the Christmas spirit as soon as possible.
- December 7th, the day of the Immaculate Conception is also the day in which the majority of Colombian children receive First Communion, a religious ceremony in which children receive the Eucharist for the first time.
- From December 16th to the 24th, the Novena de Aguinaldos prayers are read. Mother María Ignacia, a Bogotá-born nun from La Enseñanza School, modified the final text in the 19th century. This is one of the most highly anticipated celebrations for everyone, because in addition to being a space to approach spirituality, it is the perfect time to gather the family together and eat to your heart’s content. Buñuelos and natilla are the most popular treats during these gatherings.
- In Colombia, Niño Dios, not Santa Claus, brings the gifts to children. Niño Dios or Niño Jesús is the symbol that represents Jesus’s childhood. Children are told that he goes to each house to deliver the gifts that they requested by letter.
- Each December, around 74 million bottles of aguardiente and 42 million bottles of rum are sold. Colombians like to accompany their celebrations with a drink that brings cheer to their lives. Although aguardiente, also called guaro, is the most popular, rum and lots of beer are also popular drinks.
- During this season, Colombians eat approximately 99,555 tons of chicken. It is a main ingredient in typical Christmas dishes, because ajiaco is not ajiaco without chicken and tamale is not tamale without chicken!
- Groups of friends and coworkers sing and exchange traditional aguinaldos—a fun way to celebrate the end-of-year festivities.
- On December 31st, in some parts of the country, people burn a doll representing the outgoing year. It is usually made as a family, gathering old clothes and stuffing them with newspaper. The doll is lit on fire after the clock strikes midnight, in order to say farewell to the previous year.
- María, Jesús, and José are very popular names in Colombia to honor these characters.
These are just a few things that Colombians do during the Christmas season to have fun, spend time with family, and celebrate the end-of-year holidays as only can be done in Colombia.