Ornamentshop.com’s tour of Christmas traditions has barely begun and already it’s clear: most countries blend serious, religious activities with those that are just all-out fun.
Case in point? Colombia, whose people are considered the most devout Catholics in South America. They are especially mindful that the candles that light up the country’s streets are not only beautiful to look at but also are a religious metaphor: the candle wax represents Christ’s body, the wick, his soul, and the flame reminds people that he is the light of the world, not only during Christmas in Colombia, but all year long.
With these metaphors top-of-mind, Colombians open the Advent season on December 7, the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, by bathing the streets in so much soft candlelight that the country can be seen as artfully outlined from above – from Venezuela to the north, Brazil to the east, Peru and Ecuador to the south and the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea to the west.
On the actual dia de las velitas (day of the candles), Colombians hang lanterns and string decorative lights along streets, sidewalks, balconies, porches, driveways and even their cars. They carry candles into Christmas Mass, mindful not only of the tapers’ beauty but of their significance. For the nine days preceding Christmas day, Columbian families pray daily near nativity scenes with colored candles. On Christmas Day, they celebrate with white candles, which symbolize purity and new life.
The streets come alive during Christmas in Colombia
The Christmas season comes to a close with two festivals unique to the country: the Dia de Negritos (Day of the Black Ones) on January 5 and the Fiesta de los Blanquitos (Festival of the White Ones) on January 6.
During the former, young boys chase after girls and smear their faces with black shoe polish – mimicking the “freedom day” of slaves who once ran through the streets of Colombia to paint people’s faces with coal. Adults get into the act by dressing in masquerade and celebrating until dawn, when those fun-loving boys again run through the streets, this time throwing flour or talcum powder on everyone they see.
In between their serious and Mardi Gras-like traditions, Colombians celebrate the season with wide variety of appetizers, main dishes and desserts, including bandeja paisa, the country’s national dish. Indulge your curiosity, and your palate, by reading more about Christmas in Columbia at www.ornamentshop.com/xmas_trivia/christmas_traditions_in_colombia.asp.