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Eje Cafetero Christmas in Pereira, Colombia

Eje Cafetero Christmas in Pereira, Colombia

Culture, Travel

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Lanterns decorate the streets and sidewalks for Dia de los Vuelos

The air is cool and festive, people crowd the streets, on sidewalks and in windows are lanterns lit for the virgin Mary. You pass by restaurants playing lively Latin Christmas music and children are singing in the Plaza. My first Christmas in South America has arrived!!!
The problem with keeping up with a website is keeping up with a website. I have been working for the Colegio Liceo Campestre de Pereira now for about 6 months and I am only 2 months shy of a full year here in Colombia. There are many Christmas customs and traditions that are very similar but others that are new and special to experience and learn…

The decorations…

Decorations here are pretty standard Christmas, trees, lights, red and white with scenes of snow, Santa, Mary and Joseph. However it never fails to amuse me when I see palm trees with Christmas lights and imaginary “snow” stuff, especially since most people here have never seen snow in their lives!! They don’t know how much they are missing out on! Nothing screams fun like rigid temperatures, but I digress. Some unique decorations here are lanterns. Typically paper lanterns are a thing reminiscent of Asia, however here in Colombia there is a tradition on the 7th of December to light lanterns all over in the streets. I think it may be an allusion to the voyage of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Its beautiful to see because the plazas sidewalks and some entire streets are full of paper lanterns in different colors, shapes and designs with candles lit inside. The pueblito of Quimbaya in nearby Quindío Department is famous for their yearly lantern traditions and one of the most beautiful exhibitions of the lantern culture.

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The food…

Christmas in Colombia will not be authentic unless you eat Buñuelos, which are deep fried bread balls and Natilla, which is a type of pudding that is made from panela or maiz with coconut shavings. Another favorite food this time of year is Lechona. Lechona is a very traditional food where an entire pig has the meat taken out, cleaned and shredded with corn, potatoes, a type of stuffing and then put back into the skin of the pig and cooked for 14 hours.

The Customs…

Novena of Aguinaldos: a series of prayers recited the nine days before Christmas with group readings of the prayers with songs. Families will gather on several different occasions to celebrate the coming of Baby Jesus with gifts, food and song.

Christmas is official “started” on December 7th on the Day of Candles when the lanterns are lit.

On December 24th I gathered together with a family that is an acquaintance of ours and enjoyed food, drinks conversation and presents. In many households the last prayer of the Novena is recited and families will stay up til midnight and then open presents and celebrate until dawn.  Christmas Eve was really nice.  We heard fireworks being shot off in the city all night long. It disturbed our sleep along with our neighbors flashing lights but we know it is only temporary and once January arrives we will resume our peaceful slumber. On Christmas Day we just stayed home and rested.  As my first Christmas/New Years in a foreign country I think it was fun and interesting. I am starting to feel a sense of belonging here as I immerse myself in the routine and lifestyle of a resident. The newness is wearing off a bit but there is still so much to see as I pack and prepare for my next adventure where I will be returning to San Jose del Palmar in the Department of Choco. While I am in “El Choco” as it is referred to by Colombians, I will be trekking in the untouched, virgin jungles in one of the most well preserved rainforests in the world. One of our goals is to identify which species of Orchid grow there and then report back to the Pereira Orchid Association with the details. Stay tuned for the full story coming in January!!!

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About the author

English Teacher, Freelancer, Chocolate Entrepreneur and Traveler!!

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