Christmas Customs from Colombia

What would you put in a letter to Niño Jesús?

Children in Colombia think it through and place their gift lists and messages in the pesebre (manger), hoping Jesus will bring them their hearts’ desires on Christmas Eve.

Colombia Christmas celebrations start on the evening of December 7, Día de las velitas (day of the little candles). It continues through January 6, Epiphany, which celebrates the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem. That’s a full month of festivity.

For Día de las velitas, houses and streets are decorated with light and more light: candles, lanterns, strings of lights, lighted displays, and even fireworks. There are music for dancing and villancicos to sing. Food, too: lots of traditional dishes.

Religious practice pervades the season. From December 16 through 24, novenas – prayers repeated for nine consecutive days – are common. Family, friends, and neighbors frequently organize their own Novena de Aguinaldos (Christmas Novena), each night at a different home. There’s praying, but also music and food.

Only a few days after Christmas on December 28, people celebrate Día de los Inocentes (Innocents Day) with practical jokes and fun.

Mouth-watering Christmas foods include lechona, Ajiaco Bogotano, buñuelos, arepas, hojuela, natilla, and empanadas. We will feature recipes for some of these dishes throughout December. LFTN members can find them on as Recipes of the Week. If you’re not yet a member of Living Free in Tennessee but want some Colombian holiday recipes, contact Mama Sauce.

But what about coffee?

You can go crazy with coffee drinks hot and cold, liquored-up and caffeinated. Somehow, coffee also carries Christmas cheer.

For a simple but spicy coffee treat this season, grate a little cinnamon bark into your morning cup. Just use the smallest side of your grandmother’s grater (IMAGE: GRATER}. Frothy milk will enhance the added cinnamon spice. Or go all the way and brew Café de Olla, though it comes from Mexico, not Colombia. Thank you to Mely Martínez of Mexico in My Kitchen for the coffee recipe.

Merry Christmas from the Holler, wherever you are at Christmas. May we soon meet.