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Christmas Traditions in Bogotá and Medellín

Posted by on in Activities in Colombia
Like most celebrations in Colombia Christmas is celebrated with zeal.

Decorations typically come out during November, and are often elaborate to say the least. Not to be outdone by the townsfolk, however, the cities install the biggest, most extravagant displays we’ve ever seen.

[caption id="attachment_551" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Noche de Las Velitas Noche de Las Velitas

In Bogotá and all of Colombia the beginning of Christmas is signaled by La Noche de Las Velitas on December the 7th. At around 7pm this night almost everybody in the country takes to the streets with candles and lights them on the ground, leaving residential streets looking particularly beautiful. One of the best places to see this night is in Villa de Leyva, so if you fancy some more intimate candle lighting be sure to check that out.

The main lights display in Bogotá is at Plaza Bolivar in La Candelaria, where a huge Christmas tree is erected in the center and lit up spectacularly. Many other corners of the city host big displays, too, including Usaquen, Parque Nacional, Zona T and even some big malls like Unicentro.

After that, most Colombian families will come together for Las Novenas. This basically involves sitting around in a circle and singing hymns, eating some typical Colombian dishes and generally enjoying time with your loved ones.

[caption id="attachment_552" align="aligncenter" width="450"]The lights in Medellín The lights in Medellín

In Medellín the Christmas traditions are slightly different, if only because their light display rivals any other worldwide. Medellín invests a great deal of money and pride in its light display for Christmas, and because of this it is a tourist attraction in itself. It's probably for this reason that, after La Noche de Las Velitas, Medellín's celebrations go on for a ful month afterwards.

The lights are mostly situated along the riverside, so many families, couples and groups of friends go during night to observe the stunning displays, and to share time out in the cool Medellín night breeze. The atmosphere is extremely pleasant and relaxed. If you’re in Medellín around this time you shouldn’t miss this awesome display.

Finally you get to Christmas day, and this means family time. Unlike in English-speaking countries, Colombia celebrates Christmas with Christmas dinner on the 24th, where families come together and enjoy a big meal. Children stay up late and run around in giddy excitement because as soon as it hits midnight the presents are unwrapped. Tired, exhausted and satisfied, everyone then hits the hay. The 25th is reserved for family time and drinking… Not so different, then.

Just as a heads up, when it comes to Christmas gifts be sure to ask for some yellow underwear, since it’s a Colombian tradition to wear yellow underwear on New Year’s Eve.
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