Christmas in Colombia
In Colombia, Christmas celebrations and preparations start on the evening of the 7th December which is known as 'Día de las Velitas' or 'Day of the little Candles'. Houses and streets are decorated with candles, lanterns and lots of lights. There are also big firework displays and music to dance to and foods like 'buñuelos' and 'empanadas'. This day is celebrated by Catholics around the world as The Feast of the Immaculate Conception but is especially popular in Colombia.
From December 16 until Christmas Eve, many Colombians take part in 'novenas'. These are special times when family, friends and neighbors come together to pray in the days leading up to Christmas. They are known as the 'Novena de Aguinaldos' (Christmas Novena) and often a different house hosts the meeting every night. As well as the prayers, people sing carols and eat lots of yummy foods!
People like to decorate their homes with Christmas Trees and other decorations. It's very common for there to be candles (normally red and white) and other lights displayed in windows or on balconies. Another very important Christmas decoration in Colombia is a nativity scene or 'el pesebre'. In early December, children write a 'Carta al Niño Dios' (letter to the baby Jesus) asking for what presents they would like. The letter is placed in the pesebre. They hope that Jesus will bring them presents on Christmas Eve.
The main Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve night and it's called 'Cena de Navidad'. The dishes often include 'lechona' (pork stuffed with rice and peas), ham, turkey or a chicken soup called 'Ajiaco Bogotano'. Other popular foods around Christmas are 'Buñuelos' (cheesy fritters), arepas (a thick dish made from corn) and 'hojuelas' (a fried pastry with sugar and jam). A very popular Christmas dessert is 'Natilla' which is a set custard.
After the Christmas Meal, many people will go to a Midnight mass Church Service. Some people stay up all night, so Christmas Day is a day for relaxing and eating up leftovers!
On the 28th December people celebrate Innocents Day, which is like April Fools Day, with lots of jokes and fun. TV stations often show bloopers and funny mistakes people have made in the previous year.