Today we are delighted to feature Sophie Echeverry, a guest blogger living and working in the U.S.A. who is from Bogota, Colombia.
As a Colombian, I cherish Christmas customs from my home country. I have celebrated 21 of my 22 Christmases in Bogotá, Colombia. It’s a month long celebration with amazing food, daily parties and colorful lights. For Colombians, Christmas is the celebration of the year. Which means we can party. It is the perfect excuse to tirar la casa por la ventana, which literally translates to “throwing the house out the window.” However, it actually means to spare no expenses or to go all the way with no stops. Let me share some important traditions:
- “Day of the Little Candles”: Translated to el dia de las velitas and celebrated on December 7, this is the formal start of Christmas for us. It’s the day we start decorating our homes with the holiday spirit and light the streets with candles. Neighborhoods, towns, cities and regions compete annually for the best light decor. El starts the many light festivals countrywide, and we take it very seriously. According to National Geographic, in 2017 Medellín was one of the Top 5 places to enjoy the best Christmas lights.
- Building El Pesebre: Also known as the Nativity Scene, this is an art representation of Jesus’ day of birth reflected through small sculptures of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the three wise men, shepherds, and barn animals. It will be certainly be found in the living room of most of our Colombian homes and in large sizes in malls and parks.
- The Start of the Novenas: On December 16, Colombian families gather for 9 consecutive days to pray and celebrate the birth of baby Jesus. These reunions remind us to be grateful and remember the true meaning of Christmas. Family and friends sing Christmas carols, read Bible verses and enjoy traditional food. My favorites include buñuelos, a deep-fried cheese dough, and natilla a custard-like caramel dessert.
- Christmas Eve: On December 24, the last day of the novenas, families gather together to pray and share a special dinner, usually at midnight. In Bogotá, the capital, it is common to enjoy turkey or lechona which is pork filled with rice and vegetables. Our traditional foods also include ajiaco, bandeja paisa and tamal with hot chocolate. At some point in the night, families exchange gifts, celebrate and some attend Christmas Mass.
- Christmas Day: After staying up all night, Christmas day is usually a day to relax. We nibble and nosh on our Christmas eve food.
- Feast of the Holy Innocents: Finally, on December 28, we celebrate el día de los inocentes, which was inspired by the story in the Bible of King Herodes. Scared of the power of the newborn Messiah, the King ordered all newborns to be taken away from their families and executed. The Virgin Mary found out and escape to Egypt. This day is to honor all the innocent newborns. Nowadays, it’s a day to play pranks and joke with family and friends, like the Colombian version of April Fools Day. Many TV stations show bloopers and funny mistakes actors and presenters have made in the past year.
As a Colombian, I along with many other Colombians, think of the Christmas season as the best time to celebrate with family and friends. It is the perfect way to indulge for a whole month before starting fresh on January 1st.
Sophie Echeverry is the Corporate Marketing Manager and Event Coordinator at Access to Culture. Born and raised in Colombia, she’s a 2018 graduate with a B.B.A. in International Business and Marketing from Hult International Business School in San Francisco, CA. Sophie has co-written more than 30 blogs since graduation. She’s a passionate foodie, and an avid e-scooter rider. Follow her foodie Instagram account or Connect with her on LinkedIn.