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Day of the Little Candles in Colombia


Little candles day in Colombia
The Day of the Little Candles or Night of the Candles is one of the most traditional festivals in Colombia. Credit: Alejandro Giatsidakis / Colombia One

The Day of the Little Candles (Dia de las Velitas) is a festival deeply rooted in Colombian tradition; taking place every year on December 7 on the eve of the Immaculate Conception. It marks the beginning of the Christmas celebrations in the country. This celebration, which varies in its forms depending on the region, usually starts on the night of December 7th when lanterns and candles are lit, illuminating the streets, shopping centers, and Colombian homes.

The origin of this festival dates back to the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary by Pope Pius IX in the Papal Bull Ineffabilis Deus on December 8th, 1854. The story goes that from that day, believers from different parts of the world lit candles to commemorate the moment.

In Colombia, a predominantly Catholic country, this tradition has endured as a time where entire families gather to start the Christmas festivities.

Day of the little candles in Medellin, Colombia
Celebrating the Day of the Candles in Rionegro Antioquia. Credit: Alejandro Giatsidakis / Colombia One

Celebrations in Different Regions

Every corner of Colombia has its special way of celebrating this date:

Barranquilla: It starts on the night of December 7th, marking the beginning of the Christmas celebrations in the city. At around 3am on the 8th, inhabitants decorate their homes with multicolored lanterns illuminated with candles, creating a festive and welcoming atmosphere.

Bogota: In the capital, it is customary to light candles and hang lanterns in windows and doors of houses only on the night of December 7th. The celebration adopted the name “little candles” from the affectionate language of the inhabitants, who tend to use diminutives to express fondness or sympathy.

Medellin: The celebration extends from December 7th to the 8th. Candles and lanterns light up houses and streets, and children take advantage of the melted wax to make “esperma” balls, while teenagers participate in La Candelada.

Santa Marta: The celebrations begin very early on December 8th and end at dawn, accompanied by processions and fireworks.

Cali: The celebration takes place on the night of December 7th. People place candles and lanterns on the sidewalks and in trees, enjoy fireworks, and savor traditional foods such as “natilla” and “buñuelos.”

Cartagena: Families gather on December 7th and/or 8th to adorn their homes with colorful candles, creating illuminated paths and a festive atmosphere in the city.

Children light up candles in Medellin Colombia
Children light up candles on the eve of the Immaculate Conception in Medellin, Colombia. Credit: A. P. / Colombia One

Decorations and Customs

Decorations vary, from pyramids made up of frameworks of ribbons and colored cellophane to lamps made from bottles with candles inside. In some rural areas, bonfires are lit to illuminate the Virgin’s path. Additionally, homemade designs are made with cardboard paper, and fireworks are enjoyed, especially in the Antioquia department.

The Day of the Little Candles represents unity, tradition, and the essence of Christmas festivities in Colombia, where the light of the candles gladdens hearts, and traditions keep the magic of Christmas alive.

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