CHRISTMAS IN COLOMBIA
Christmas celebrations in Colombia, shaped by the 90 percent of Colombians who are Roman Catholic, begin in early
December with a ceremony in honor of the Virgin Mary. On the evening of December 7th, families light scores of candles
and use them to outline streets, sidewalks, and parks so that entire cities are illuminated. December 8th brings a
national holiday commemorating the Immaculate Conception during which more prayers and candles are offered to the
Virgin Mary. Christmas trees are raised and decorated on December 16th with the start of the Novena, which in Colombia
involves a nine-day prayer ritual with a rosary in anticipation of Christmas day. During this time of celebration of
Christ's birth, groups of families and friends, often encompassing an entire village or neighborhood, will gather
together each night to pray. Villancicos, better known as Christmas carols, are also sung around the nativity
scene that plays a significant part of Colombia's Christmas celebrations.
Most Colombians attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve before returning home for dinner. The Christmas meal often
includes a special chicken soup called Ajiaco, homemade breads, fritters, roast port and natilla, a corn-based dessert.
Presents are brought by "El Niņo Jesus" to the foot of children's beds by the next morning, and after a relaxing day
spent with family, the Christmas season is complete.
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