I think most of us would agree that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but in Latin America it's not about a bouncing, white-bearded man prancing around a white wonderland. It is about baby Jesus slipping into our homes and leaving gifts for all the children of the world. Yep, in Latin America Santa Claus has only recently become a Christmas figure and even so, baby Jesus remains the prominent Christmas icon. Christmas is celebrated with large gatherings of the whole family, mom, dad, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and everything in between. Groups of families unite to put on novenas, which are prayer sessions that happen every night starting on the 16th of December and ending on the 24th, completing the nine days implied in the word "novena". Novenas are usually followed by Hispanic Christmas carols such as "Burrito Sabanero" or "Peces en el Rio" and then of course food, lots and lots of food. On the 24th of December, the birth of baby Jesus is celebrated with food, dancing and presents at midnight for the children. It is an overpowering feeling of happiness and contentment.
Then the days that follow until New Years Eve are all about partying all night long. In Colombia, we usually have a parade of horseback riding, which displays people in their greatest riding attire atop majestic horses, trotting down the road. Another day is dedicated to the salsa parade, I guess you could consider it a down-sized, Latino version of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, as it exhibits the city's greatest dance groups and singers and bands, jamming away on their huge, colorful floats. Finally, New Year's Eve arrives, and brings with it plenty of emotions, memories of the year that has passed, and resolutions for the New Year. This night is a very emotional and almost spiritual night for Latin American families. For some people, it is even more important than Christmas. After a grand banquet at midnight with the family, the furniture is moved aside, the music is turned up, and the party begins! You can hear the sounds of fireworks and people cheering, laughing, crying, giving thanks with their eyes up to the sky.
Put this on your "Things-to-do-before-I-die" list right now: spend a Christmas in Latin America. It will be like nothing that you have ever experienced!
Rio Medellin en navidad 2007 by chilangoco is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.