If you’re Catholic, you get a ton of holidays since 2/3 of the holidays are Catholic in nature.
New Years Day (January 1): Most Colombians bring in the new year by spending it with friends and families. Some people go to clubs, bars, and restaurants to party, others hold private parties. Colombia has a few traditions that caught my attention. One of them is to wear yellow underwear for prosperity and wealth. And if you really wanted twice as much, then you’re supposed to reverse it and wear it. (Um, no.) Another tradition is to eat 12 grapes, one for each month of the year and making a wish each time you eat a grape. The kicker is that you have to eat all 12 grapes within the first minute. So, at the stroke of midnight, you better be eatin’ and wishin’.
Epiphany (January 6): Several countries celebrate Christmas on January 6, where they see this as the day that the three kings came to visit the baby Jesus. Because of this, sometimes this day is also known as Three Kings Day. In the Christian church, the color for the Epiphany season is white, so it’s a pretty popular color at this time.
St. Joseph’s Day (March 19): This Catholic holiday is the feast day in honor of St. Joseph, the husband of Mary. While not much is written about him, it is said that he was the husband of Mary. Some countries (namely Spanish, Portugal, Italy) also celebrate Father’s Day on this day, but I couldn’t find whether that tradition was adopted in Colombia or not.
Maundy Thursday/Good Friday/Easter (varies): In Colombia, Holy Week is a huge deal. Many people will attend special church services where they reenact the Last Supper. Good Friday is usually spent in a solemn manner, attending services. There are even a few who attend Holy Saturday services. Easter Sunday is the culmination of the Holy Week festivities, starting the day early with Easter Sunday mass, followed by large, elaborate meals with family and friends.
Labor Day (May 1): Joining most of the rest of the world, Colombia also celebrates Labor Day on May 1. It’s a day for giving the workers a rest, and it’s also a day for discussing the state of labor and labor issues going on at that time.
Ascension of Jesus (varies): Observed on the Monday that is six weeks and a day after Easter. It’s the Catholic feast day in commemoration of the belief that this is the day in which he ascended into heaven.
Corpus Christi (varies): Observed on the Monday that is nine weeks and a day after Easter. It traditionally falls on a Thursday. This Catholic holiday is in regards to their belief that the body and blood of Jesus represents his Spirit in the Holy Eucharist, or Communion. There is usually a procession held by the church on this day.
Sacred Heart (varies): Observed the Monday that is ten weeks and a day after Easter. This day traditionally falls on a Friday. This holiday is generally based on Jesus’ heart (like, the organ in the body) as a symbol for his spiritual love for humanity. There’s a lot of symbolism surrounding the crown of thorns, the sword that pierced his side, blood, fire, flaming hearts, etc. Wonder if flaming hearts are anything like The Flaming Lips?
Saint Peter and Saint Paul (June 29): This is a Catholic holiday that is based on the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul that took place in Rome.
Independence Day (July 20): This day marks the declaration of independence from Spain back in 1810. People generally hang the Colombian flag up and everything is decorated in yellow, blue, and red. Military parades march through the streets, and the day is spent relaxing with friends and families. Music and free concerts fill up parks and other outdoor venues while local festivities, parties, and barbecues are the happening thing.
Battle of Boyacá (August 7): This is the “other” independence day. It’s actually in remembrance of battle in which Simón Bolívar’s army defeated the Spanish king’s army in 1819. It’s considered one of the major battles in South American history since the subsequent independence of Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and the creation of Bolivia was a result of this win. Many of the traditions held on the Independence Day on July 20 are repeated for this day.
Assumption of Mary (August 15): A popular Catholic holiday and principle feast day for the Virgin Mary. It’s believed that this is the day Mary ascended into heaven after her death.
Columbus Day (October 12): Known as Dia de la Raza (Day of the [Hispanic] Race), this holiday has been celebrated since 1921 in Colombia. It commemorates Christopher Columbus’ landing in the Americas. Schools and government offices are closed for the day; many people take a moment to teach children about the historical reasons for celebrating this day. Some people protest on this day because of the resulting slavery and genocide of the native peoples by Columbus’ men.
All Saint’s Day (November 1): This is the Catholic holiday is the feast day for all of the saints that don’t have their own separate feast days. It’s sort of a catch-all holiday.
Independence of Cartagena (November 11): While the largest celebrations take place in Cartagena since this city’s independence led to the entire country’s independence. A large national beauty pageant is the highlight of the day, complete with a fireworks display at night. Parades, music, and food highlight this festival that is held in various cities across Colombia.
Immaculate Conception (December 8): This is the Catholic feast day in regards to their belief that this is the day which is nine months before when they believe the baby Jesus was actually born. So, in essence, this is the day he was conceived.
Christmas (December 25): In Colombia, Christmas traditions are driven with a strong Catholic basis. People put their Christmas trees up on December 16 (NOT at the end of November, mind you. I’m looking at you, United States) as the beginning of Novena, a nine-day period of prayer. Most people celebrate Christmas with a midnight mass on Christmas Eve night, and everyone shares a special meal, usually consisting of a chicken soup called Ajiaco as well as an assortment of other savory and sweet treats before sharing gifts.
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