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In Colombia we start getting ready for Christmas as early as November with houses and malls lighting up all over the country. This is without doubt the best time of the year and as it flies by so quickly people can’t wait to celebrate – you might sometimes see Christmas adornments mixed in with Halloween decorations.
Families get together, everyone seems happier than usual (a tall task for Colombians), people ask for forgiveness, the past is left behind and Colombians reminisce about all the good moments they’ve been through that year. It is an entirely festive, but above all family-oriented, atmosphere. One of our Christmas traditions is novenas, which take place during the nine days preceding Christmas and which commemorate Jesus’ birth. Every night, friends, neighbours and family take turns at hosting the others.
After the carols and prayers comes the best part of the night – indulging in traditional Christmas food which, although delicious, can wreak havoc with your diet. But hey, it’s Christmas and it only comes once a year so the best thing you can do is just enjoy. You’ll have time for the gym later. Make it your New Year’s resolution.
Here’s a list of a few mouth-watering delicacies that will be taking pride of place on Colombian tables over the coming days:
They come with various characters, filled with cream, chocolate or vanilla. If you get invited to a novena, it’s a good idea to take some biscuits along for your host.
Deep-fried flour balls essentially. Some have cheese in them and you can find both sweet and savoury versions, although savoury is more common.
Readily available in supermarkets, you can find easy-to-prepare kits with a choice of arequipe, coconut or plain flavouring. If you’ve never tried it, it’s a bit like a pudding which you can pimp up with blackberry sauce, raisins or grated panela.
As I said, the diet goes out the window during Christmas, although maybe it’s not the best idea to eat a tamal at midnight, unless you don’t have plans to sleep that night. But tamales make up part of our varied gastronomy. The tamales from Tolima are delicious and it’s hard not to be tempted by one.
5. Hot Chocolate
The perfect accompaniment to your tamal on a cold Bogota night in December. Whether it’s for your Christmas dinner or for the next day’s breakfast, Colombian hot chocolate has got to be on your list.
6. Rice Pudding
One of my personal favourites. The ingredients are basic and it is easy to make. You can add your own personal touch with some cinnamon or raisins. It’s so famous that it’s even got a song of it’s own – a kind of nursery rhyme that goes something like “I want to marry rice pudding…”. That old classic.
Surprise your guests by greeting them with a canelazo, or warm up these December nights as you wander alongside the Christmas lights. This typical Andean drink is made of aguardiente, panela, hot water and cinnamon.
If you’re not a turkey- or pork-lover, you can simply opt for a classic Colombian staple. The national dish goes great with capers, corn-on-the-cob, avocado and a dash of sour cream.
Right, all this talk is making me hungry, I hope you’ve got some cravings after reading this. Remember though, the most important ingredients for ensuring you enjoy these Colombian delicacies are your friends, family and neighbours. Happy holidays!
Have you got any others? Leave a comment and share you Christmas delicacies.
Written by: Carolina
Translated by: Azzam