Anita from Poland writes about her experiences around the world on her responsible travel blog Time Travel Bee. She studied Spanish at Elefun for a month and fell in love with the vibrant Colombian culture. Here she describes some of the unique Christmas traditions that made her time in Medellín special.
I spent over a month in Medellin, and I am glad I came during the Christmas period which was so different and beautiful. Here I saw a spectacular show of lights every single day. Colombians love to celebrate in general, and especially they love Christmas and its decorations. December in Medellín, it’s magical!
I noticed colorful lights on the windows and balconies already in November. By the end of the month, whole buildings were blinking with all the rainbow colors. Shops, streets and supermarkets got various decorations such as Christmas trees or huge snowmen. And all that was just the beginning!
Officially Christmas season starts on the 1st of December. Medellin welcomes this special time with dozens of fireworks at midnight. It’s also time when the famous ALUMBRADOS open. Medellin is famous for spectacular Christmas decorations that can be seen in the Parques del Rio in the city center as well as in pretty much most of the main parks in the city. Lights are everywhere! The biggest and most official are in Parques del Rio where the park and the river are decorated in huge light installations. Every year the topic is different, for example, Colombian carnival, Colombian animals, or the Disney movie: Encanto. Big crowds of locals and visitors come to see the famous Alumbrados in the center. They are indeed impressive however, not I also liked the small parks in other districts that also had Christmas decorations like Sabaneta or Itagui.
Alumbrados are not just lights! It’s another chance to meet friends or family and celebrate. All the big Christmas lights zones I have seen in Medellín were surrounded by street food vendors that sell all types of traditional snacks, beer, drinks, and gadgets.
A very special day was December 7th – the “day of little candles” Día de las Velitas on the eve of the Immaculate Conception public holiday. At night locals light plenty of candles to remember the deceased as well as receive luck in the New Year. A common belief now is that each candle represents a wish in the New Year. So, with each candle lit, a new wish is granted. And if the flame burns longer it’s thought to be the likelihood of a wish coming true. Some Colombians light the candles in the houses, others on their jards or simply on the streets. I loved to see families sitting around the candles in front of their houses. This day felt very special. I went to Park Itagui and saw lots of tiny, colorful candles everywhere.
A big ceremony called Novena of aguinaldos, also known as the novena to Baby Jesus takes place from December 16 to December 24. It’s a novena (nine-day religious ceremony) held during the time leading up to Christmas. Christmas in Colombia is a time to celebrate, eat a lot, and meet up with family – probably like in most of the Christian world. And New Year’s Eve is another party with fireworks? Yes, but I would like to mention one particular tradition Colombians have. For New Year’s Eve, people prepare a human-size doll filled with fireworks and dressed in old clothes. To say goodbye to the old year, the doll called Ano Viejo is getting on fire!
For me this time in Medellin felt very special and spectacular. I think I have never seen so many Christmas decorations and traditions in any other place. All the details, lights on every possible surface, decorated plants. Everything looks so cute. I will surely keep recommending this city for a December stay, especially if you like Christmas time.