This past Thursday, December 8, was a holiday in Colombia. December 8 is the day of the Immaculate Conception, and on the eve before this holiday Colombians celebrate La Día de las Velitas (The Night of Candles).
On December 7 at night, people in every city in Colombia light candles and paper lanterns and leave them burning outside during the night. Each city has slightly different traditions
In Barranquilla, people begin lighting candles in the early hours of the morning of December 8. Traditionally they light candles inside of faroles, or colorful, paper lanterns and place them in the windows or in the front of their houses.
In Medellin, candles are lit and placed in front of houses and in the streets. Also, the city puts up over 16 million Christmas lights and the city officially lights up on this day. There is also a parade called the Desfile de Mitos y Leyendas (Parade of Myths and Legends) and fireworks on this day marking the beginning of the Christmas season.
In Cali, people also light candles and place them outside of their houses and along the sidewalks and leave them burning until they go out. Others also decorate trees with lanterns.
In Bogotá, more important than lighting candles is putting up Christmas decorations. People do light candles and place them outside, but not as much as in other cities. Also, on the 8th, which is a holiday, at night there is ciclovía, when certain streets are closed and people can walk and ride bikes and look at all of the Christmas lights illuminating the city.
Another tradition, a friend of mine from Cucuta told me, is that you are supposed to make a wish with every candle that you light. The faster the candle burns, the more quickly your wish will come true.
Here are some photos of my friends and I lighting our candles outside of our apartment: