Christmas in Colombia
|Avg. temperature: 23.9°C / 75°F
|Sun: 6 Hrs (sunshine) / 11.5 Hrs (daylight)
|Rain: 147 mm per month
|Avg. humidity: 69.7%
For travelers from countries in the Northern Hemisphere it can feel a little out of the ordinary to experience a warm Christmas. Come to Colombia, and that’s just what you will get! With temperatures averaging at a spring-like 23.9°C / 75°F you should not expect a Winter Wonderland at Christmastime.
How long does Christmas last in Colombia?
You may be surprised to find out that in Colombia, Christmas lasts for a whole month! Starting with Dia de las Velitas, or “Day of the Little Candles”, on 7 December, 30 days of festivities follow before the holiday finishes on 6 January with the celebration of the Three Kings.
Unlike in Christian countries where Christmas is celebrated on 25 December, Christmas in Colombia is founded on Catholic traditions and the celebrations are held on 24 December.
In case you’re travelling with the family… Does Colombia believe in Santa?
One unique tradition you’ll want to be aware of for your Colombian Christmas relates to the delivery of gifts. You shouldn’t expect many Santa sightings! Instead, in Colombian culture, it is El Niño Dios (or the Baby Jesus) who delivers presents to children during the night, ready to open under the tree on Christmas morning.
Many Colombians still believe in Santa Claus and his reindeers, soaring the night sky in his sleigh, but most don’t believe he’s responsible for the gifts.
El Niño Dios has the same magical wonder about him as Santa does in Christian countries as he flies through the skies at midnight delivering treats to the well-behaved children of Colombia.
Colombian Christmas traditions
Dia de las Velitas
The Day of the Little Candles is the first day of the celebrations on 7 December. Houses and streets are decorated with candles, lanterns and lights. Huge fireworks displays are held in most major towns and cities, and the streets fill with people who come together to celebrate the start of the holiday season.
Music, dancing and delicious local foods fill the streets for what Colombians call “The Feast of the Immaculate Conception“, and the Christmas season has officially begun.
The most famous Christmas lights in Colombia – and potentially some of the best in the world – are at El Alumbrado, the Christmas Lights Festival held in Medellin each year. The lights tend to go up at the end of November and are lit until the festive season ends on 6 January.
Beginning on 16 December, Colombians take part in “Novenas”, a form of worship consisting of special prayers or services on nine successive days, leading right up to Christmas day itself. Throughout the nine days, family, friends and loved ones come together to pray in celebration of the birth of Jesus.
There are often special services where people sing Christmas carols and read verses from the bible, and as per Colombian festivities of any kind, cook delicious local delicacies and share love through food.
On the final day, 24 December, families eat their traditional Christmas dinner before unwrapping the presents left by El Niño Dios during the night.
Cena de Navidad
This is the name of the traditional Colombian Christmas dinner! It typically consists of pork stuffed with rice and peas (or “lechona”), a meat soup known as “Ajiaco Bogotano” and various small finger-food dishes.
A few days after Christmas, on 28 December, is the “Innocent Days” celebration which is equivalent to the April Fools Day you hear of in many parts of the world. Jokes are told, pranks and played, and mayhem is caused throughout the day, which is intended to commemorate the massacre of male children in Bethlehem when King Herod ordered the execution of male toddlers under 2 years old.
Whilst the history of Innocent Days sounds tragic, the story goes that God interrupted the plan to deceive Herod in order to protect the innocent young children. In honour of this, Colombians use 28 December to playfully deceive with a series of childish pranks and jokes that can be enjoyed by all!
How do you say Merry Christmas in Colombia?
You may be familiar with the world-famous festive song, “Feliz Navidad”. Well, that literally translates to “Merry Christmas” in Spanish!
Where can I spend Christmas in Colombia?
As the whole country celebrates the festive season, there are so many options for places to stay during your Christmas break. It is the highlight of the year for many Colombians and tourists, and with so much to get involved in choosing where to stay could be a tricky decision! The big cities tend to have the most going on, and here are some of the options that prove most popular.
You’ve heard about Medellin’s famous light festival, El Alumbrado (in National Geographic magazines top 10 lights in the world!), and this is the main reason it is considered by many to be the best place to visit in Colombia during your Christmas vacation. In 2019 the festival saw 27 million LED lights be lit alongside various woven artefacts made by a team of more than 200 creatives.
Bogota is a tamer version of Medellin at Christmas. It still offers spectacular light displays but the crowds are much less and the city generally feels a little calmer. For many this could be a benefit and by no means does it mean it’s any less fun!
Cartagena is another popular spot for Christmas in Colombia, and one of the best places to be if you want to spend Christmas by the beach. Every house, shop and building is lit up with stunning bright lights and the bars and clubs invite all to come and dance during the celebrations. There are beaches and boat tours, sea and snorkeling and plenty of fun to be had on the neighbouring islands!
Cover photo source: https://www.colombia.co/en/colombia-culture/folklore/five-ways-celebrate-christmas-colombia/