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Tradition in Colombia: the Night of Candles

by Sabine
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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 that I have had the pleasure of experiencing about 8 times now, and each time it is just as special. Meet one of Colombia’s most beautiful traditions: the night of the candles on December 7, the start of the Christmas month.


What is celebrated during the night of candles in Colombia?

The night of the candles, or Las Velitas, is celebrated throughout Colombia, but exactly how and when varies somewhat by region. In most places it’s celebrated on the evening of Dec. 7. At least in Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Boyacá (such as Villa de Leyva) and Santander (such as Barichara, where I also celebrated it once).

People everywhere go into the streets and light candles and lanterns. Just on the sidewalk, in houses and in malls.

The Night of the Candles marks the beginning of the Christmas month in Colombia. Then on December 8, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary is celebrated. Which is also an official day off.


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. Almost everywhere it starts on December 7 in the evening, around 7PM. In some cities, there is much more than candles, such as music. In Cartagena, for example. More festivities take place on December 8, a national holiday.

In Santa Marta, on the contrary, it starts very early in the morning on December 8. Even before sunrise. There on the day are parades and the day ends with fireworks.

In any case… 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. The atmosphere is also very special. A must-see in Colombia.


I marvel at it every year. Such a special tradition. Where families come together. Everyone eats buñuelos. Everyone goes outside to admire the candles…. This never gets boring.


Religion in Colombia

Officially, the Night of the Candles is celebrated in Colombia as a vigil on the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. On December 8, 1854, the dogma was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX. For many Colombians, this is also a religious moment. Read more about religion in Colombia.


Atmosphere and tranquility: enjoyment at its best

The Night of Candles has a special atmosphere. The atmosphere is calm and serene. Everyone says hello to each other and people enjoy the moment together. I too always enjoy the peace, the lights, that atmosphere, the people and my camera. I could walk around among the candles for hours. I have since been able to experience this tradition in more places. Namely, in Bogotá, Montería, Sopó and in Barichara. And whether the climate is hot or cold, it is always beautiful.


The beginning of the Christmas season in Colombia

Several years ago, many Christmas lights in Colombia were not lit until December 7. But these days it’s earlier. However, December 7 still marks the beginning of all kinds of festivities in Colombia in December. Like bike rides along the Christmas lights. Anyway, December in Colombia is really great. Indeed, Christmas lights here are quite different from those in other countries. Much more exuberant, much more colorful, and much more at all. For example, go to a shopping mall, visit in Bogotá the neighborhood Usaquén in the evening or hit the streets wherever you are in Colombia. Even Cartagena at Christmas is beautiful….



Seas of candles in the dark, cold evening: what a wonderful Colombian tradition!


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