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For Colombians, Christmas -and in general the month of December- is a big deal.

In December, our calendar is full of activities, family gatherings and heaps of food!

Colombians, as we all know, love to celebrate. Colombians are happy, spontaneous and authentic people. We are grateful, family-oriented and we love sharing food.

Having said this, it comes as no surprise that for Colombians Christmas doesn’t only refer to the celebration taking place on the 24th – 25th December. For us, Christmas is a season, which takes place all the month of December – it even takes place from the end of November until the beginning of January.

Approximately 20% of the Colombian population lives in the country’s capital city. Bogota is a modern and cosmopolitan metropolis that has become the country’s epicenter of business, study, and entertainment.

Since a large part of the city’s population are not originally from Bogota but from multiple places all around the country, December is an opportunity for them to return home to spend quality time with family and old friends.

Have you celebrated Christmas in Colombia?

If not, start planning your trip to Colombia and start learning Spanish! We guarantee it will be one of the best experiences of your life.

And for you to have the best experience, we have prepared this article in which we explain the most important Colombian Christmas traditions.

Christmas Season

We mentioned that Christmas in Colombia is not just a day, it’s a season, but then when does the Christmas season start?

Well, officially the Christmas season starts on the 7th December with “El día de las velitas” (Little Candles Day). But, arguably, we can say that the Christmas season starts a bit before, around the end of November but no specific date.

How is that?

Colombian families gather together to set up their “arbolito de navidad” (Christmas tree, we use diminutives in Colombian Spanish) and other decorations at home.

Apart from the “arbolito de navidad”, the second most important decoration is “El pesebre” (the nativity scene). For us, it’s important to set up the whole nativity scene -including the landscape- next to the Christmas tree.

Colombian Christmas Traditions: Pesebre

Keep in mind that in the “Pesebre” we set up the little hut where “El niño Dios” (baby Jesus) is born, but we don’t put baby Jesus in it until 24th December evening -When, for us, he was born. You will see a lot of different kinds of “Pesebres”, and you will find them in people’s houses, offices, malls, etc.

Once “el arbolito” and “el pesebre” are set, children write a ‘Carta al Niño Dios’ (letter to baby Jesus). In the letter, they ask for the presents they would like to get for Christmas. The letter is placed in the “arbolito” with the hope they get those presents on Christmas Eve.

Now, let’s move on to the busy calendar of activities during this season:

Día de las Velitas

Colombian Christmas Traditions: Día de las Velitas

On the 7th of December, we celebrate “El día de las velitas”.

This celebration takes place on the evening of December 7th, leading up to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th, a Catholic holiday and national holiday in Colombia.

Houses and streets are decorated with candles, lanterns and lots of lights. Some people design and hang their own cardboard lanterns, especially in smaller towns.

There are also big firework displays, music and foods (we’ll talk about traditional Christmas food in the last section of this article).

It’s then, with all the lights on, that the Christmas season officially starts.

The candles are meant to light the way of the Virgin Mary as she comes to bless their home. People give thanks for the blessings they have had during the year that is ending.

Novena de Aguinaldos

From the 16th December until the 24th December, we do something in Colombia called “La novena de aguinaldos” (Christmas advent prayer). We normally just say “La novena”, which literally means “ninth”.

For the nine nights leading up to Christmas, people gather in each other’s homes, traditionally to recite an old Christmas prayer. “Novenas” also take place at people’s offices, malls, and public spaces.

During a novena, be prepared to eat traditional Colombian Christmas foods and to sing traditional Christmas music, known as “villancicos“.

These prayers are devoted to holy figures such as baby Jesus, Mother Mary, and Joseph, among others.

While many people still maintain the religious aspect, it has evolved into a good excuse to get together to eat, drink and enjoy life with family and friends.

Navidad

If you think Christmas in Colombia starts by stumbling down the stairs in your pajamas, sitting next to the freshly cut tree and opening presents, you are wrong.

While in many Northern European and North American countries Christmas is celebrated on December 25th (Christmas Day), in Colombia and many Latin American countries Christmas is celebrated on December 24th evening – to be more specific, at midnight.

On Christmas night, known as “nochebuena” families pray the last “novena”, share a special dinner, and -at midnight- everyone starts opening the presents that Baby Jesus brought.

At midnight, there is usually a late-night party so people stay up until the early morning and sleep-in the next day. The 25th is a day to relax, eat leftovers and spend time with the family

Día de los Inocentes

If you thought the fun ended on December 24, then you haven’t celebrated Christmas in Colombia!

Of course, there is another festivity in between Christmas and New Years’.

On the 28th of December, we celebrate something called “El Día de los Inocentes”. It is kind of the Colombian version of April fools, where creating humor at your expense is the name of the game.

On this day people play tricks on each other, and even TV channels adapt their programs to this day by showing a lot of blooper shows.

Aguinaldos

Aguinaldos are those fun little games played by children and adults during the Christmas season.

One of the most popular and commonly played is known as Tres Pies: players try to slip one foot in between the feet of their opponents without them noticing.

Another popular one is Si o No – basically, you can’t say one of those words.

People play those games for a few days any time during the Christmas season. They normally agree on certain points and the winner gets a small present.

Now that you know our Christmas traditions, it’s time to talk about food!

Typical Christmas Food

Christmas in Colombia wouldn’t be complete without our traditional dishes.

Food plays an important role in Colombian Christmas celebrations – and it’s delicious!

What do Colombians eat during the Christmas season:

Buñuelos

Buñuelos are originally from Jewish and Arabian cultures. They came to Latin America during the Spanish colonization.

These are cheese fritters made of cornstarch, butter and cheese.

Colombian Christmas Traditions: Buñuelos

Natilla

Natilla, a creamy spiced custard dish, is the festive dessert par excellence.

Tamales

Another popular Colombian Christmas food is tamales. They are made of corn, wrapped in plantain leaves, and boiled. The tamales vary according to the region. Some of them also have rice, peas, eggs, carrots, bacon and chicken.

Lechona

A roast pig stuffed with vegetables, rice and spices, that has been slow-cooked for hours and hours beforehand

We’re getting hungry now! And, we are so ready to start our Christmas celebration!

Follow our weekly blog if you want to know more about Colombian culture, the Spanish language and our Spanish school.

Hope to see you anytime soon in Colombia. But remember that in the meantime you can join our Spanish classes online.

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

How would our life be without food?

How would traveling be without trying local dishes?

And, how would Colombia be without its flavors?

As Anthony Bourdain said:

“I think food, culture, people and landscape are all absolutely inseparable.”

The culture of a society is manifested in a variety of ways such as art, music and food. There is so much to learn by exploring the gastronomic richness of the countries.

Gastronomy (gastronomía in Spanish) is the study of the relationship between food and culture. It’s the art of preparing and serving rich or delicate and appetizing food. It’s the cooking styles of particular regions and the science of good eating.

If you love food and if you are interested in Colombian culture, then this post is for you!

What foods are popular in Colombia?

Colombia is a gastronomical paradise due to its natural and cultural diversity. Our food is a blend of different traditions. It is a blend of indigenous, Spanish, African and Arab flavors.

Each region has its own traditions and its own food. It would take some time -and many trips around the country- to try the flavors of each region.

But, if you want to have a taste of all Colombian regions in one place, then Bogota is your city!

Bogota is known as the gastronomic capital. It offers the opportunity to enjoy the flavors of Colombian, international and fusion cuisine. It’s not a surprise then that Bogota is one of Latin America’s major emerging culinary hotspots.

That’s why Netflix has included the city in the new series “Street Food Latin America”

What are the most popular Colombian dishes?

Colombian food is colorful, diverse and rich in flavor.

If you want to eat like a Colombian, make sure you try these 10 traditional dishes:

  • Ajiaco
  • Bandeja Paisa
  • Sancocho
  • Patacones
  • Arepas
  • Chocolate con queso
  • Aguadepanela
  • Salpicón
  • Tamal
  • Buñuelos

Also, make sure you go to the city’s local markets and try these 15 exotic fruits. You will understand why Colombia, and especially Bogota, is known as a gastronomical paradise.

How to learn Spanish through food?

What if we told you that you can learn Spanish through food?

Yes, it sounds amazing – and delicious-, isn’t it?

Trying new food is not only delicious but an opportunity to learn about new cultures and to learn new languages.

In Colombia, food connects people. When you come to visit Colombia you will have the opportunity to share time with locals while trying new dishes. You will be invited to join family and friends dinners, to visit local markets, and to try street food.

So, while you wait until it is possible to travel again you can learn Spanish online. It will not only keep you busy and motivated during COVID times, but it will prepare you for your next trip to Colombia.

Spanish food vocabulary

If you want to have a deep and meaningful experience, you should learn how to communicate with locals with regards to food.

Here we have prepared a short guide to help you learn the basics of Spanish food vocabulary:

Useful Vocabulary

  • To eat (Comer)
  • To drink (Beber or Tomar)
  • Breakfast (Desayuno)
  • To have breakfast (Desayunar)
  • Lunch (Almuerzo)
  • To have lunch (Almorzar)
  • Dinner (Cena)
  • To have dinner (Cenar)
  • Snack (Merienda)
  • To snack (Picar)

Fruits (Frutas)

  • Apple (Manzana)
  • Banana (Banano or Plátano)
  • Grapes (Uvas)
  • Lemon (Limón)
  • Lime (Lime)
  • Orange (Naranja)
  • Peach (Durazno)
  • Pear (Pera)
  • Pineapple (Piña)
  • Plum (Ciruela)
  • Raspberry (Frambuesa)
  • Strawberry (Fresa)
  • Watermelon (Sandía or Patilla)

Vegetables (Verduras o vegetales)

  • Asparagus (Espárragos)
  • Broccoli (Brócoli)
  • Carrot (Zanahoria)
  • Cucumber (Pepino or pepino cohombro)
  • Garlic (Ajo)
  • Lettuce (Lechuga)
  • Peas (Arvejas or Guisantes)
  • Pepper (Pimiento or Pimentón)
  • Potatoes (Papas)
  • Spinach (Espinaca)
  • Tomato (Tomate)
  • Onion (Cebolla)

Meats (Carnes)

  • Bacon (Tocineta)
  • Beef (Carne de vaca)
  • Chicken (Pollo)
  • Duck (Pato)
  • Ham (Jamón)
  • Lamb (Cordero)
  • Pork (Cerdo)
  • Sausage (Salchicha)
  • Steak (Bistec)
  • Turkey (Pavo)
  • Veal (Ternera)

Drinks (Bebidas)

  • Beer (Cerveza)
  • Coffee (Café or Tinto)
  • Juice (Jugo)
  • Milk (Leche)
  • Soda (Soda o Gaseosa)
  • Tea (Té)
  • Tap Water (Agua de la llave)
  • Mineral Water (Agua mineral)
  • Red Wine (Vino tinto)
  • White Wine (Vino blanco)

What does Sobremesa mean in Colombia?

Another important word is “Sobremesa”. This word doesn’t have a specific translation but it’s very important in Colombia.

Literal translation: “Over-table”
Slang meaning: In Colombia it refers to the drink that comes with the meal.

When you go to a restaurant, the waiter normally asks you:
2¿Qué desea tomar de sobremesa?”

What would you like to drink with your meal?)

While in Spain it refers to the action of spending time relaxing after a meal. It could be drinking coffee or just hanging out chatting at the table after eating.

If you want to know the main differences between Spanish from Colombia and Spanish from Spain read our post: “ Top 5 differences between Spanish from Colombia and Spanish from Spain

Useful sentences and expressions in Spanish related to food

  • I’m hungry (Tengo hambre)
  • I’m thirsty (Tengo sed)
  • May I have the menu, please? (Podría ver el menú, por favor?)
  • What do you recommend? (Qué me recomienda?)
  • I would like… (Quisiera…)
  • May I have some…? (Podría traerme…)
  • Nothing more, thanks (Nada más, gracias)
  • Without….. please (Sin…. por favor)
  • I’m vegetarian (Soy vegetariano/a)
  • Can I have the bill, please? (Me regala la cuenta, por favor)

We hope you have enjoyed the reading. If you want to learn and improve your Spanish language from home join our online classes. And, if you want to learn more about Colombian culture don’t forget to read our weekly blog.

There are many reasons for being proud to call Colombia our home; and our variety of fruits is definitely one of them.

According to the Humboldt Institute, Colombians could eat a different fruit every day for more than a year. Yes! You are reading well. We could spend a whole year trying different fruits because in Colombia there are over 400 edible native species.

Colombia is known as the “gateway to South America”; it sits in the northwestern part of the continent where South America connects with Central and North America. It is famed for its great climatic diversity, including deserts, tropical rainforests, savannas, prairies and mountain ranges. The climates in these mountainous areas are usually categorized according to their elevation, known as “pisos térmicos” in Spanish.

Furthermore, thanks to its geographical proximity to the equator, Colombia doesn’t have typical seasons like spring, summer, fall and winter. Instead, there are only two seasons, rainy and dry, and the weather stays more or less the same all year round in each region. These characteristics are what make Colombia not only the second most diverse country in the world but also a fruit heaven on earth.

So, what kind of fruits would you find when visiting Colombia?

Here are Learn more than Spanish’s Top 15 of the fruits Colombians like the most :

 1. Lulo

Colombian exotics fruits: Lulo

2. Guanabana (Soursop)

Colombian exotics fruits: Guanábana

3. Granadilla

Colombian exotics fruits: Granadilla

4. Chontaduro

Colombian exotics fruits: Chontaduro

5. Maracuyá (Passion Fruit)

Colombian exotics fruits: Maracuya

6. Gulupa

Colombian exotics fruits: Gulupa

7. Guayaba (guava)

Colombian exotics fruits: Guayaba

8. Borojó

Colombian exotics fruits: Borojó

9. Tomate de árbol (Tree tomato)

Colombian exotics fruits: Tomate de árbol

10. Feijoa

Colombian exotics fruits: Feijoa

11. Curuba (Banana Passion Fruit)

Colombian exotics fruits: Curuba

12. Pitahaya (Dragon Fruit)

Colombian exotics fruits: Pitaya

13. Uchuva (Golden Berry or Physalis)

Colombian exotics fruits: Uchuva

14. Zapote (Sapota)

Colombian exotics fruits: Zapote

15. Mangostino (Mangosteen)

Colombian exotics fruits: Mangostino

These are some of the fruits that you might try at least once during your trip to Colombia, likely with new friends or at family gatherings, but definitely in the streets of Bogota and when visiting the iconic local markets of our city.

When buying fruits from street vendors or in the local markets you should be prepared to have short –or even long- conversations with random people. Colombians smile and talk a lot, we’re very friendly and polite but we also use a lot of informal expressions. Make sure you learn some slang and local expressions, so you don’t miss our jokes.

Learn More Than Spanish students visiting one of Bogota's famous local markets

Learn More Than Spanish students visiting one of Bogota’s famous local markets

Are these fruits already exotic for you? For Colombians these fruits are quite normal; we use them to prepare natural juices at home, make fruit desserts and snacks. However, there are some fruits that are exotic even for Colombians: Amazonian fruits.

Although Colombia accounts only with the 8% of the Amazon rainforest (Brazil 60%, Peru 12%, Bolivia 7%, Venezuela 5%, Guyana 3%, Suriname 2%, Ecuador 2%, French Guiana 1%), there are a large number of Amazonian fruits than can be found nowadays in the main cities.

Here the Top 3 Amazonian fruits for Colombians:

1. Cupuazu

Colombian exotics fruits: Capuazu

2. Camu Camu

Colombian exotics fruits: Camu Camu

3. Arazá

Colombian exotics fruits: Arazá

These fruits are not as easy to find as the fruits listed above. However, in Bogotá, for instance, you can find almost everything that grows in Colombia.

These particular Amazonian fruits have been gaining popularity in the capital city since restaurants like Wok and Crepes & Waffles, two of the most important restaurant chains, are using these products for their juices and desserts. As part of their social and environmental program, these local restaurant chains have started sourcing both local and exotic products from all around Colombia for their menus in order to bring city people back to their roots.

If you have visited Colombia you’ve hopefully tasted some of our diverse and delicious fruits, but if not, we suggest you take note of their names and make sure you try them when you visit us again (yes, we know you will be back!). If you haven’t visited Colombia yet now you have another reason to put this beautiful country in your bucket list destination.

Has this post brought back memories from your trip to Colombia? What was your favourite fruit?

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