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Latin American Countries Such As Colombia Prepare to Light Up the Night Thanks to ‘Día de las Velitas’ — Here’s How This Holiday Came About

Latin American Countries Such As Colombia Prepare to Light Up the Night Thanks to 'Día de las Velitas' — Here's How This Holiday Came About

Colombia is preparing for one of its most beloved and bright evenings of the holiday season, setting the streets aglow with candles and lanterns to honor Día de las Velitas. 

The celebration of Día de las Velitas, also known as the ‘Night of the Little Candles,’ stands as one of Colombia’s most special festivities. Held annually on December 7th, this day marks the commencement of the Christmas festivities, illuminating the streets across towns and cities throughout the nation. Families partake in lighting candles in front of their homes, adorning them with colorful lanterns, and expressing wishes for the upcoming year. While rooted in religious significance, even non-religious individuals often join in lighting candles alongside their loved ones. 

@medellingles

Día de las Velitas might be Colombia’s best tradition. During the celebration, Colombians commemorate the immaculate conception with candles. The candle displays light up neighborhoods across the country and bring people outside of their homes. The tradition is simple, but that’s the beauty of it. #diadelasvelitas #díadelasvelitas #diadevelitas #díadevelitas #nochedevelitas #nochedelasvelitas #nochedevelas #navidadcolombia #navidadcolombiana #navidadmedellin #colombianchristmas #colombiantradition #colombiantraditions #tradicionescolombianas #buñuelos #buñuelos #natilla #comidacolombiana

♬ El Burrito De Belén – Juanes

In major cities like Bogotá and Medellín, night activities unfold in museums, shops, and parks, offering families a chance to spend an evening together. Conversely, rural areas witness horseback rides or the preparation of traditional dishes. Additionally, illuminated lanterns grace windows, balconies, and doorways.  

Origin of Día de las Velitas

The Día de las Velitas serves as the starting point for Colombian families to welcome the holiday season. In religious tradition, it signifies the vigil for the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. In the Catholic faith, this date was established on December 8, 1854, when Pope Pius IX proclaimed the festivity. 

Since then, it became customary to light candles and hang lanterns on doors and windows on the night of December 7th as a precursor to the celebration honoring the Virgin. However, festivities on December 8th celebrating the Annunciation of the Archangel to Mary were observed in the 15th century in Ireland, England, Germany, France, and Spain, according to documents from Bogotá’s Archives. 

It’s believed that the Spanish might have introduced this tradition during the colonial era, which Colombians then adapted to their culture. Presently, it’s common for each candle to signify a wish, or for street parties and events to be organized. While the essence of the celebration remains unchanged over time, in recent years, it has evolved, with candles often adorned with drawings or messages, sometimes of a political nature. 

So, years later, Colombia gears up for one of the most celebrated days of the festive season, as the streets light up with candles and lanterns to commemorate the renowned Día de las Velitas, albeit rooted in a much deeper Catholic history. 

It is of note that Colombia is not the only country that celebrates this day. Other Latin American countries such as Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Venezuela, and Peru celebrate it. However, each country celebrates it with their own twist.  

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