Christmas in Colombia is the biggest event of the year. While much of the world celebrates Christmas on December 25th, for Colombians, the big day is on Christmas Eve.
Towns and cities across the country go all out with extravagant lights, traditional displays, and holiday festivities. Here are some of the most exciting cities to spend Christmas in Colombia.
Cartegena is one of Colombia’s most vibrant coastal cities. The walled cities of the old town hold a rich afro-colombian history and electric energy. During Christmas, the streets come alive with fireworks displays, extravagant light shows, and festive events.
Cartagena is a fantastic place to spend the holidays, mainly because the residents don’t stop partying. Holiday celebrations start as early as November and continue into January. Some of Cartagena’s traditions are similar to other parts of the country. However, it has a unique Caribbean twist!
Día de Independencia
If you can get to Cartegena for mid-November, it will be worth the travel as the city holds a massive parade to celebrate its independence from Spanish rule. Being the nation’s oldest festival, it boasts an important reason to hit the streets and dance into the night!
November 11th marks the day this port city fought off the Spanish and led the country toward independence. Today the colorful procession includes costeño music, carnival dancers, and cultural spectacles, with the Miss Colombia pageant taking place at the end of the week. Head down to the ancient walls of the old town to get a front-row view of the parade and the biggest party in town.
Related article: The Best Places to Spend Christmas in Latin American
Festival del Pastel Cartagenero
This festival dates back to 1987 and celebrates one of Cartagena’s most significant ancestral delicacies. The Pastel combines different foods, like rice, meats, and vegetables, wrapped in banana or vijao leaves.
The origin dates back to Colombia’s colonial era and the enslaved west Africans that were brought to Cartegena. On Christmas day, enslaved people would preserve the meats left over by their captors by wrapping the food in the leaves.
Today you can enjoy the delicious delicacy from one of the festival’s 30 participants. This food adventure takes place during the second week of November and is free for the public.
The city of eternal spring is where many ex-pats choose to spend Christmas. The sheer amount of fun and festive activities makes it an easy choice.
Taj is a recent addition to the city’s traveler scene; born in St Lucia but raised in New York, spending the holidays in Medellin was on her bucket list.
She explains that “Some people worry about being away from home during Christmas, but during December in Medellin, there’s something to do every night. Whether it’s hanging out at the lights displays, partying, or eating your way through the Christmas Markets!”
A Medellin Christmas can be fun and cultural immersive experience! Here are some fun ways you can spend Christmas in the city.
Every year the city puts on an extravagant lights festival. The Christmas decorations are world-renowned, and people from around the globe flock to Medellin to partake in the festivities.
This year the main set of displays has a Disney Encanto theme and a route that stretches from Guayaquil bridge to Parques del Río. However, there are Christmas light shows throughout the city’s parks. Parque Sabaneta and Parque Bello have their own smaller displays.
During the late hours of Christmas Eve, families leave their homes and take to the streets for a neighborhood party. Visitors can experience a low-cost, authentic Colombian Christmas in some of the city’s barrios. Parties are usually enjoyed in the more residential areas of Envigado and Popular.
Here some roads are even closed off. Locals bring out the Sancocho, Aguardiente, and loudspeakers and party into Christmas day.
The walk-up to Pueblito Paisa may be the perfect December day out for those who enjoy light hikes and breathtaking views.
This replica Colonial sits at the top of the Cerro Nutibara hill and is a hotspot for Colombian tourists. During the holiday season, Pueblito Paisa is transformed into a Christmas wonderland with food vendors and colorful lights. At midnight on Chistmas eve, the church holds a mass, where goers pray and sing carols.
The salsa capital of the world is fast becoming one of the most popular vacation destinations in Colombia. Cali’s diverse Afro-Colombian culture, national nature parks, and tasty food make it the perfect Christmas getaway. But what really cements its reputation is its Christmas day festival!
Here some of the ways to experience a Cali Christmas:
La feria de Cali
Cali is one of the most renowned places in the world to learn and enjoy salsa. This makes Cali’s yearly salsa festival a monumental occasion. Held from December 25th to 30th, the important event celebrates the region’s cultural identity.
With dance parties, parades, and salsa competitions, attending La feria de Cali is a great way to spend Christmas and immerse oneself in Afro-Colombian culture.
Cali Christmas Lights Display
Similarly to Medellin, Cali will have its own lavish Christmas lights display. This year’s theme will focus on the diverse birds of Colombia. Cali Mayor Jorge Iván Ospina describes the theme as a representation of the rebirth of the city and a rise from difficulties.
From December 7th to January 7th, 1,500,000 LED bulbs will illuminate Plaza de Caicedo and Bulevar del Río. Visitors walk along the bank and look at the colorful figures that dance along the Cali river.
Written by Merowe Davis / PanamericanWorld