Dec 09

Top 5 Unusual Colombian Christmas Traditions

Lights in Bogota (Photo courtesy of Momentcaptured1
Lights in Bogota (Photo courtesy of Momentcaptured1

Please forgive the potentially politically incorrect notion that a culture’s traditions could be considered ‘unusual’ – especially coming from someone who will teach his children that a fat, bearded old man from the North Pole who rides in on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeers will bring them their presents. And we have a Queen, I’m told that’s weird.

But, with that said, there are some customs here in Colombia during the Christmas period that I struggle to get my head around, or that I think are particularly cool. Here’s my top 5.

La Noche de Las Velitas

La Noche de Las Velitas (Photo courtesy of Luz Adriana Villa
La Noche de Las Velitas (Photo courtesy of Luz Adriana Villa


Mix candlelight, drink, music and tenderness and you might think I’m talking about a romantic meal for two. In fact, all over Colombia on the 7th of December people take to the streets, place candles on the ground and come together in the spirit of family, community and merriment. You know Christmas has started after this night. Lovely stuff.

Las Novenas

Coming from the UK where Christmas has lost much of its religious flavour, this one is strange for me since it’s so firmly rooted in Catholic traditions. As far as I’m aware, Las Novenas happen all over the Spanish-speaking, Catholic world. Basically, it’s a period of nine days before Christmas when families come together, eat, drink and pray. Again, it’s the real sense of togetherness and community that makes this tradition special, and it’s very strong in Colombia.

Yellow Underwear

On New Years Eve it’s tradition to wear yellow underwear. Don’t ask – I have no idea.

Año Viejo

He won't look so cheerful soon...
He won’t look so cheerful soon… (Photo courtesy of Carlos Adampol

A bit like Guy Fawkes night in the UK, the idea of Año Viejo is basically to burn a model of a person. A full-size doll is made and clothed in some old rags and then taken out and burnt on the 31st of December

New Year’s Eve at Midnight Run Around With a Bag on and Eat 12 Grapes

No more needs to be said about this one. Just… Bizarre.



12 thoughts on “Top 5 Unusual Colombian Christmas Traditions

  1. Shelly B. on

    I grew up with Cuban neighbors. Yes, the grapes were a big custom. One had to be eaten on each gong of the midnight hour. Happy New Year!

  2. adriana on

    La noche de las velitas is celebrated in anticipation of the day of the virgin, which is December 8th. :). That is the main idea, although people have changed it.

    The yellow colour represents prosperity and richness. Like in our flag : Yellow represents the gold, meaning richness. Blue represent the “water” or the rivers and oceans we posses and the red represents the lost of people that fought for our liberty.

    Now, the question would be why in panties? no idea. 🙂

    Hhaah yeah I know about the bag, I don’t understand it either. Funny, right?. Its a superstition, if you run with the bag, then you would be able to travel for the next year.

    Each grape represents a wish for the next year. You also need to eat them really quickly.

    Thanks for the post 🙂


      Paul on

      Adriana, thanks for the helpful insights! I can eat grapes very fast, but I’m not sure if I can think of 12 wishes quite so quickly… Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Vicky B., MSW (@DocSabia) on

    happy I ran into your post! Used one of your pics and linking back of course! Happy celebrations in Colombia! 😀


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