For our first Christmas in El Retiro, a small town perched high in the Andes above the big city of Medellín, we want to share a few of our favorite Colombian holiday traditions.
Colombia, and Medellin in particular, is world-renowned for its dazzling displays of Christmas lights – alumbrados in Spanish. But it’s not just the big cities that go all out with the alumbrados – the small towns also get in on the act, in a major way. Here’s El Retiro’s take on this fantastic tradition (just click through to see a larger version of each photo).
A Colombian Christmas tradition we’ve come to love is the Dia de las Velitas (Day of Little Candles) on Dec. 7, the eve of the Immaculate Conception. You’ll see scores of families and friends gathered in parks and in front of their houses and businesses to light candles, share food and drink, play music, and enjoy each other’s company. Last year, when we were still living in Medellin, the celebration was pretty subdued because of the pandemic. This year, we were thrilled to see El Retiro citizens go all out with the velitas, setting the town aglow with countless candles and lanterns in windows and on door stoops. It reminds me a bit of the southwestern custom of luminarias that I grew up with in West Texas.
Buñuelos y Natilla
Available year-round, buñuelos are one of our favorite street foods. These little fried balls of corn meal and cheese are just as delicious as they sound, especially if they’re fresh, hot, and drizzled with honey (yum!).
In December, buñuelos are paired with natilla, a sweet custard that sometimes includes grated coconut, for a treat that just says “Christmas” to Colombians.
We’re feeling a little wistful this Christmas.
As we write this, several close friends have told us they have tested positive for Covid-19 (almost certainly the Omicron variant), and others are isolating with flu-like symptoms. No one’s seriously ill, gracias a Díos, and we’re both safe and healthy. But more than ever, we’re reflecting on just how fleeting life is, and how precious. We have no idea what’s in store next for the human race, but all we can do is be hopeful that 2022 is the year we finally get the upper hand on this terrible virus.
To our friends, family, and subscribers, we say THANK YOU for reading our blog and supporting us this year – and we wish you all a safe, healthy, and peaceful Christmas!