Latin American Christmas Traditions: 6 Ways Colombia Celebrates Festive Holiday

A man dressed as Santa Claus gestures next to the Christmas lights on December 9, 2014 in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia. AFP PHOTO/RAUL ARBOLEDA (Photo credit should read RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Colombian Christmas spirit lasts about a month and if you have a Colombian friend chances are that you were invited to different festivities to celebrate different traditions than the usual “Noche Buena” and “New Year’s Eve” during the holidays. Let’s take a look at some of the most common or recognized rituals that Colombians honor around this season.


nativity scene The nativity scene is the most important Christmas decoration for a novena. Mi.Ti/ Shutterstock

On December 16, Colombians reunite with family members and friends each night until the 24th to pray "La Novena de Aguinaldos." Each night of the novena we sing "villancicos" or Spanish Christmas Carols, we also enjoy typical Christmas foods such as natilla or buñuelos and read a series of stories to remember the birth of Jesus. 

La Noche de las Velitas  

velitas People light candles in Colombia. AFP PHOTO / RAUL ARBOLEDA (Photo credit should read RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)

This celebration takes places every year on the night of December 7, leading up to the special Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. Families gather to light candles and lanterns in front of their houses, streets, windows, balconies, porches to honor Virgin Mary and sometimes the festivities include an enormous fireworks show.

 "El Pesebre"

It consists of a small nativity scene with little figurines of Virgin Mary, Baby Jesus, Joseph and a village, however; baby Jesus is not placed in the manger until December 24th. Once there is a pesebre in the house, the owner can host a novena.

Alumbrados de Medellin

The Lighting of Medellín  is a traditional seasonal event where the city hangs millions of Christmas lights and holds light shows and other cultural events.  The event usually lasts from the beginning of December until the beginning of January and it draws an estimated 4 million visitors, including thousands of tourists.

New Year’s Eve Superstitions

colombia The sanctuary of the Basilica of the Fallen Lord of Montserrate is seen illuminated for Christmas in Bogota on December 8, 2015. The basilica, a pilgrim destination and tourist attraction, is located on Montserrate, one of highest hills of the city. AFP PHOTO/Luis Acosta / AFP / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)

Colombians believe in many superstitions or what we call "agueros." For example a typical tradition is to run around the block with an empty suitcase when we are welcoming the New Year so that it will be filled with travel and adventures. Another superstition Colombians follow is to wear yellow underwear to have prosperity and luck in the future.

Los Reyes Magos

three kings The 'three wise men.' jorisvo/Shutterstock

On January 6, we celebrate the visit of the three wise men to Jesus and we placed them in the nativity scene. The holiday is also known by the name of the Epiphany and it marks not only the end of the Christmas holidays but also the beginning of the Carnival season, children also get some gifts during this celebration.


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Juliana Barrera

Juliana Barrera started her mass communications career in the entertainment business at Estefan Enterprises, where she successfully participated in a variety of projects related to production, marketing and public relations for the company. She worked for three years as a writer and editor at La Vox Media group, the platform for an independent voice for Hispanic America. Additionally, she completed an internship at VIACOM  engaging audiences through pro-social initiatives. 

Juliana is a graduate student from Florida International University, her major is mass communications  and she has a minor in psychology. Her work has been published by HuffPost LatinoVoices, Latin Times, VOXXI, politic 365, La Opinión and others.