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Major Celebrations in Colombia You Shouldn’t Miss

A fireworks display during one of the important holidays celebrated in Colombia
Here's how you can best enjoy some of the most exciting celebrations in Colombia.
Daniel Echeverri , CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Have a ton of unused vacation leaves? Thinking of an exceptional way to spend them?

Why settle for a boring trip when you can experience fun, liveliness, and excitement in none other than Colombia?

Whether you’re visiting Colombia for the first time or have lived in the country for a while, you’ve probably heard that big celebrations in Colombia happen all year round.

With approximately 150 festivals and 20 national public holidays, there’s never a dull moment in this festive country.

Of course, with every trip comes diligent research and preparation. To make the most of your time, take note of the basics so you know what to expect once you decide to join some of the most important celebrations in Colombia.

Major Celebrations in Colombia and How to Best Enjoy Them

  • Colombian New Year

    Each country has its own unique way of welcoming the new year. Colombia is no exception. From wearing yellow underwear to eating 12 grapes at midnight, the Colombian New Year is definitely a night full of fun and exciting moments.

    Colombian New Year is definitely one of the most important holidays celebrated in Colombia. And just like any new year celebration in the world, Colombians indulge in the spectacular view of fireworks and heartwarming local food.

    Where else can you best enjoy the fireworks and upbeat activities than in the country’s capital city? Invite some friends or go solo to Bogota, either way works fine. Nonetheless, celebrating the new year the Colombian way is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience.

    If you want to take it easy and have a laid-back celebration for the upcoming year, why not hit the countryside and spend New Year’s Eve with the locals?

    Observe local families following Colombian New Year traditions like walking around the block with suitcases, burning old dolls, and so on.

  • Cali Fair: One of the Most Important Celebrations in Colombia to Welcome the New Year

    A parade of people wearing colorful costumes during one of the biggest celebrations in Colombia
    Cali Fair is one of the most energetic holidays celebrated in Colombia.
    Corfecali, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, via Flickr

    Colombians go beyond the typical way of welcoming the new year. Cali Fair is one example.

    You can participate in a variety of activities like beauty pageants, fashion shows, bullfights, concerts, and most especially the salsa marathon or the Salsódromo parade. The fair runs from the 25th of December to the 30th of January, and it is considered one of the most important holidays celebrated in Colombia.

    Dubbed the Salsa Capital of the World, Cali not only offers a full-packed cultural experience, but also world-class salsa entertainment.

    Out of 58 events at the Cali Fair, almost all are free, so you might want to stay longer and take every chance you can get to witness each event.

    If this is something you imagine putting on your bucket list, book a hotel in advance as it can get super busy. There are a lot of hotels around Cali that will surely make your stay convenient.

    Another important thing you might miss is the language. Try to learn some Spanish phrases you can use when getting around places.

  • Do They Celebrate Halloween in Colombia?

    Just like any other Halloween celebration in the world, children and adults wear makeup and costumes for fun on October 31st. Unlike in the U.S. where children go house to house for trick or treat, children are usually taken to malls or stores to receive candies.

    Halloween is not among the official public holidays celebrated in Colombia. But people love to gather in big cities like Bogota and Medellin to join nightclubs and Halloween parties.

    You’ll be thrilled to know that several Halloween costume contests are being hosted at many places like the hotels in Medellin.

    Before going to any of these events, you have to keep a few things in mind such as booking a table in advance as it can get crowded. More importantly, remember that it’s the rainy season during Halloween in Colombia, so you might need the appropriate outfit for the wet and cold weather.

  • Día de Los Muertos: The Day of the Dead

    Women wearing colorful costumes for Dia de Los Muertos, one of the most important holidays celebrated in Colombia
    Other important celebrations in Colombia include Dia de Los Muertos, also known as The Day of the Dead.
    Jaredzimmerman (WMF), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    While October 31st is full of parties and lively gatherings, November 1st and 2nd are celebrated more traditionally and solemnly. Another one of the most important celebrations in Colombia is the Día de Los Muertos or The Day of the Dead. It is believed that the spirits of dead children and adults can enter the living world and rejoin their families at this time.

    Observe locals as they offer food and drinks to honor the spirits of their deceased loved ones, and witness parades of people with painted ‘‘Calavera’’ or skulls on their faces.

  • Colombian Christmas

    How is Christmas celebrated in Colombia? Well, try to imagine the display of candles, novena prayers that can last for a week, families singing Christmas carols, luscious Christmas foods and desserts, and so on. Like most South American countries, Christmas is big and one of the most important celebrations in Colombia.

    Colombians are distinguished for how much they value family and friends. And for them, the best way to show their love for one another is through gift-giving during the most wonderful time of the year.

    If it’s your first time celebrating the holidays in Colombia, it’s definitely a good idea to wrap some gifts for friends and family.

    Typically in the U.S., children would wait for Santa, but children in Colombia write letters to Baby Jesus asking for presents on Christmas Eve. Indeed, Christmas in Colombia couldn’t get more exciting and memorable.

When Is Christmas Celebrated in Colombia?

While some people want to make December 7th the official start date of the Christmas celebration, the majority of Colombians start putting up decorations as early as the beginning of November.

Novena prayers run from December 16th until Christmas Eve, which basically means that the Christmas spirit is felt throughout December.

There are too many activities to mention when it comes to Christmas, one of the most important celebrations in Colombia. But how is Christmas celebrated in Colombia? Know that locals can go on for hours just talking about special Christmas foods and desserts like Pernil de Cerdo, Buñuelos, and Natilla.

Celebrating Christmas the Colombian way is an opportunity for you to learn more about their culture as well. If you think this is a great holiday no matter where you are in the world, wait until you hear about the highly anticipated Christmas lights in Medellin.

El Alumbrado: Medellin Christmas Lights

A massive Christmas light display during one of the biggest celebrations in Colombia
Christmas is one of the most joyous holidays celebrated in Colombia.
Jorge Mario G. Mazo, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

After being named one of the best in the world by the National Geographic, El Alumbrado, or the Christmas lights in Medellin, Colombia, has become an international major attraction.

If you think you’ve seen the best Christmas light display in the world, you’ve probably never been to this massive and magical Christmas light display around the Medellin River and La Playa Avenue.

Streets, rivers, and houses are illuminated with lights in different colors, which are visually stunning. It’s like you’ve been transported to a completely different world as the Christmas light displays come in different themes and characters each year.

This gigantic Christmas light display wouldn’t be possible without the collaborative work of the city officials, engineers, mechanics, and many other individuals who are tasked with the technicalities and logistics.

How is Christmas celebrated in Colombia, you ask? Well, one thing’s for sure, it’s not like any ordinary Christmas you’ve experienced before.

How Do Medellin Christmas Lights Get Power Supply?

The annual Medellin Christmas Lights are powered by EPM or Empresas Públicas de Medellín, which is a public utility responsible for all the energy, gas, and sanitation in the city. For many years, it has invested millions in lights just to make this Christmas light tradition a success.

While it may sound costly, Christmas lights in Medellin have certainly brought a positive impact on the city. Given its bad reputation on drugs and crime, the city has truly come a long way.

Stroll along the river with the mesmerizing view of the lights around you. Make sure to wear something comfortable and preferably a good pair of sneakers. To ensure a smooth-sailing tour, follow basic guidelines such as taking care of your personal belongings, staying in groups during the whole tour, and watching out for motorcycles.

Do They Celebrate Thanksgiving in Colombia?

This is sad news for American tourists who want to have a Thanksgiving celebration while they’re in Colombia.

Although Thanksgiving is not one of the holidays celebrated in Colombia, who says you can’t bring the festivities and Thanksgiving traditions to spend with family and friends? You’ll be surprised to know that there are quite a few restaurants that offer traditional Thanksgiving meals.

But if you want to stay in, it’s possible to buy ingredients for the classic Thanksgiving recipe such as potatoes, carrots, and stuffing. As for dessert, you can also get a fresh pumpkin pie.

Bring family and friends closer by serving them the best Thanksgiving turkey you can make! Besides, this is a chance for you to share some of your Thanksgiving traditions with Colombian friends in case you decide to have them over to celebrate.

These are just some of the many important celebrations in Colombia that fill almost all the months in the calendar.

If these events and celebrations bring about the excitement and joy you’ve been looking for, why not plan the trip you deserve?

Colombia is not one to disappoint when it comes to big celebrations. There’s no better place to spend the holidays than a country that knows no mediocrity.


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