Our journey today takes us to Columbia and the celebration of Dia de las Velitas. We officially call it The Republic of Columbia. The country’s its coasts stretch the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Of course, the main language they speak in Colombia is Spanish. And the world considers this country as ‘the most Roman Catholic’ of all South American countries.
With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at Little Candles Day. Locally, they call it Dia de las Velitas. Little Candles Day is a widely observed traditional holiday and part of Colombia’s high-spirited culture.
Let’s dive right in.
What is Little Candles Day?
Little Candles Day translated to Spanish reads ‘Dia de las Velitas’. That said, Colombians celebrate this traditional holiday on December 7 every year. December 7 is the eve of the ‘immaculate conception’. But it also marks the unofficial start to the Christmas season.
As the name suggests, they commemorate Little Candles Day with candles. But we’ll get into more details further on in our blog.
The History of Dia de las Velitas
The majority of the celebrations for Dia de las Velitas take place during the night of December 7. These celebrations date back to 1854 when Pope Pius (the 9th) documents in his ‘Apostolic Constitution’ about the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. With his definition of this occurrence being dogma, people from all over lit candles and paper lanterns in anticipation of the event and to show their support and belief in this proposition.
In other words, everyone received the announcement of the Virgin Mary conceiving baby Jesus as good news. And to recognize this happening, they lit candles. Many cultures celebrated this event. In fact, they lit candles all over the world in celebration. Not just in Colombia.
How Colombians Celebrate Little Candles Day
As we stated earlier, December 7 is the eve of the feast of the immaculate conception. It is a public holiday in Colombia and signals the start of the Christmas season. That said, in honor of Little Candles Day, Colombians place candles and paper lanterns with candles inside them everywhere. Everywhere you look you’ll see candles on windows, sidewalks, balconies, porches, squares, and even in the streets.
The people light candles all across the country in honor of the Virgin Mary and her immaculate conception. In Bogota (Colombia’s capital) for example, Christmas decorations including beautiful lights extravagantly clad the streets and buildings of the city. Streets are closed and everyone gets the chance to walk freely and admire the many and beautiful lighting arrangements. Stores and malls are also open late and many shows take place on this night. You’ll also see people caroling and live nativity scenes as the night comes alive.
The Heart of the Celebrations
The more cultural event for Dia de las Velitas takes place in the municipality of Quimbaya. Here they celebrate ‘The Candles and Lanterns Festival’ ( Fiesta Nacional del concurso de Alumbrados con Velas y Faroles) on the 7th and 8th of December.
This festival first took place in 1982 with the neighborhoods that are part of the township competing for the best lighting arrangement. Of course, visitors from all over the globe come to see this spectacular show of lights that is Día de las Velitas.
The Caribbean region of Colombia celebrates Día de las Velitas in the wee hours of the morning of December 8. Candles and Lanterns are lit early before sunrise as opposed to the night before in other parts of the country. At this time devout Catholics wake up early to greet the sunrise and light candles with their families. Some people also choose to stay up all night and party with lots of food and drinks in anticipation of the lighting of the candles. Some don’t wait till morning but light their candles before going to bed.
Wrapping Up Día de las Velitas
We can safely say that Día de las Velitas celebrations allow Colombians to take Christmas to another level. There’s fun and laughter in the streets, lots of sightseeing to take in, and time set aside to spend with friends and family.
The essence of this traditional holiday ties in with the spirit of Christmas as it signifies the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. December 7 is the vigil in anticipation of December 8 which is the actual day the immaculate conception is celebrated.
Candles are lit, wishes are made and Christmas officially begins. Día de las Velitas is a magical time!
We hope we were able to bring a piece of Columbia’s culture to life through our blog post. Here at Day Translations, we enjoy bringing the cultures of different countries to life. We hope you enjoyed this trip as much as we did. There’s no culture or barrier that we can’t breakthrough. Our team of translators and interpreters are always here to serve you 24/7 no matter the need.