Sometimes holidays and traditions are SO special. Like“La Noche de las Velitas”. Or in other words, the Night of the Candles. The start of the Christmas season and one of Colombia’s most traditional holidays. During this evening and night, thousands of candles are lit throughout the country. Just outside on the street. After sunset, families gather to enjoy this special event. A moment like I have never experienced before. So I decide to go out with my camera to take a closer look at this. Get to know this typical Colombian celebration and immediately get an idea of the neighborhood I live in!
Being together in the dark
I immerse myself in a beautiful atmosphere. In thick coats and warm scarves, people stand outside around the candles. I ask nicely everywhere if I can take pictures and that makes people curious. I tell where I’m from and that I don’t know this tradition. I show the pictures I took and am even offered food and drinks by families standing outside by the candles. Just like that, from people I’ve never seen before.
Tradition throughout the country: when do candles burn where?
Candles everywhere. In the streets, in gardens, on balconies. The celebration of Las Velitas varies by region. For example, in the north of the country it is celebrated especially in the very early morning of December 8, and seems to be completely spectacular in Medellín and Boyacá. Are you traveling in Colombia around that time? Then don’t miss this wonderful tradition! Check here on what date it is celebrated where. Here in Bogotá, people only go out in the evening of Dec. 7. And actually, I think this is pretty spectacular: so many candles on the street.
Silently I walk through our neighborhood. I hear families saying prayers and remembering deceased loved ones with every candle they light. Children hop around among the beautiful blazes. Meanwhile, I shoot eagerly.
A family comes to pluck me off the street to offer me the typical Colombian Christmas snack buñuelo (a kind of fried dough ball), with fruit juice on the side. Of course I can’t turn that down so I stand and talk to these incredibly friendly people for a while. One lady tells me that she loves the Virgin Mary very much, a statue what she has placed between the candles. She talks about how much she meant to her. She seems genuinely happy as she looks at the figurine. Wonderful right?
Atmosphere and tranquility: enjoyment at its best
I walk on again and greet everyone on the street. People are quiet and among all those candles, the atmosphere is serene. I enjoy the peace, the lights, that atmosphere, the people and my camera. I could walk around for hours among the light. But after a while, I start getting pretty cold. Already many people have left the burning candles outside to escape into their warm house.
Lighting candles: the beginning of the Christmas season in Colombia
I decide to do the same. Though I can’t resist taking some final photos and enjoying more of what I see. This is so special, all those streets with those candles! I turn off my camera and walk to our apartment. Jimmy is not home yet and so everything is still dark. Still completely at peace in my body, I grab the lighter and do the same as the people in our neighborhood. I light all the candles, turn off the lights and sit on the couch. I let the calm take effect on me and think about all that is to come in December and the New Year. Christmas approaching. The coziness. To family and friends. The future. I feel blessed. Seas of candles in the dark, cold evening: what a wonderful Colombian tradition!