Merry Christmas Eve!

**Every night for the nine nights before Christmas Colombians celebrate novenas, so I will be writing a blog post every day about Colombian Christmas traditions. Feliz Navidad!**

Photo Courtesy of Dariela Cruz http://www.mamitalks.com

Today is the ninth and final day of novenas in Colombia, and it is Christmas Eve, or Nochebuena, when Colombians have their main Christmas celebration. Families gather today to have dinner, usually late at night, and many people also go to Midnight Mass. Continue reading

Colombian Christmas Traditions Day 6

**Every night for the nine nights before Christmas Colombians celebrate novenas, so I will be writing a blog post every day about Colombian Christmas traditions. Feliz Navidad!**

Back for another day of Colombian Christmas Traditions! Today, the sixth day of novenas, I will be talking about aguinaldos. The literal English translation of aguinaldos differs because it can mean different things in different countries, but in this case it refers to games played during novenasContinue reading

Colombian Christmas Traditions Day 5

**Every night for the nine nights before Christmas Colombians celebrate novenas, so I will be writing a blog post every day about Colombian Christmas traditions. Feliz Navidad!**

Spoiler alert: If you still believe in Santa Claus then you probably shouldn’t read any more.

In Colombia, Santa Claus, (Papa Noel) is not the bearer of gifts. Instead, it is Baby Jesus, or, El Niño Jesus/El Niño Dios who brings toys to the children at midnight on Christmas Eve, usually leaving gifts at the foot of the beds of the children instead of under the tree. Also, children write letters to Baby Jesus instead of Santa Claus and is placed in the nativity set for Baby Jesus to read.

The Papa Noel figure still exists and he can be seen in malls throughout Colombia, just like in the States, for children to have their picture taken with. Because Colombia is predominantly Catholic country, there is a more religious aspect to Christmas in Colombia than in the States, although Papa Noel has become more prevalent in recent years. Now it is more of a mix of El Niño Jesus and Papa Noel who brings the presents.

Whoever brings your presents on Christmas, have a wonderful holiday! And check back tomorrow for more on Colombian Christmas traditions!

Colombian Christmas Traditions Day 4

**Every night for the nine nights before Christmas Colombians celebrate novenas, so I will be writing a blog post every day about Colombian Christmas traditions. Feliz Navidad!**

An important part of the novenas is the villancicos, or Christmas carols, that are sung every night. Villancicos are quite different from the typical Christmas carols we sing in English. There are no “Jingle Bells” or “Deck the Halls;” the carols sung in Colombia are all more religiously focused, mostly on Mary and baby Jesus.

Villancicos are rooted in Spanish Catholic history and the tradition carried over to Latin America, with some changes, of course. Composers of villancicos came from many different Latin American countries, including Colombia. Some of the most well-known villancicos are Tutaina, Los Peces en el Río, Las Campanas de Belén, and Mi Burrito Sabanero. You can listen to Tutaina in the video above.

In Colombia villancicos are most commonly sung during novenas, when family and friends gather around the pesebre, or nativity scene. People also bring different musical instruments such as panderetas, tambourines, and claves to accompany the singing. If you want to listen to the other villancicos, they are all on YouTube!

Colombian Christmas Traditions Day 3

**Every night for the nine nights before Christmas Colombians celebrate novenas, so I will be writing a blog post every day about Colombian Christmas traditions. Feliz Navidad!**

Yesterday I wrote about the different traditional Christmas food and drinks in Colombia, and today I have the recipes for you! If you want to see pictures or descriptions of anything, just read my post from yesterday here.

First, buñuelos. The easiest way to make buñuelos is with a pre-made mix; then all you need to add is cheese and water. However, if you can’t find the mix near you, then here’s how to make them from scratch:

Ingredients:

2 pounds of Queso Fresco, very finely grated
1 ½ cups cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together, minus the oil, until it is a soft dough. Then form the dough into ½ inch diameter balls. Heat the oil. To know if it is the right temperature, you should form a tiny test ball of dough and drop it in. It should sink to the bottom, and then count to 11. If it rises at 11 seconds, it is ready. If it rises too quickly, it is too hot. If it takes longer to rise, the oil is not hot enough. The trick to buñuelos is the temperature of the oil; it has to be perfect, so make sure you test the oil. They are done frying when they are a nice golden brown on the outside. Then place them in a bowl lined with paper towels and serve immediately.

Next, natilla. Natilla mix also comes in a box, but here is the recipe to make this delicious cake from scratch:

Time: 30 minutes                                                                                             Servings: 8-10

Ingredients:

950 millilitres of milk                                                                                                             1½ cups cornstarch                                                                                                               ¾ cup brown sugar                                                                                                                 4 cinnamon sticks                                                                                                                    1 tablespoon cinnamon to sprinkle on top

Directions:

Dissolve the corn starch into the milk. Add the brown sugar.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly. When the sugar has fully dissolved and begins the milk has started to thicken, add the cinnamon sticks.
Continue to cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring constantly. Then, take the cinnamon sticks out, and pour the mixture on to a large and slightly deep, tray.
Allow to set, place cinnamon sticks and sprinkle cinnamon on top, and serve.

Last, canelazo, a tasty drink you can serve all winter long. It’s perfect at Christmastime or on any cold day.

Ingredients:

2 cups aguapanela (sugar cane drink)
1 cup aguardiente (Anise-flavored alcohol)
4 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon lime juice                                                                                                    Sugar for serving

Directions:

Mix the aguapanela, aguardiente, cinnamon, and lime juice in a pot over medium heat. Simmer for about 7 minutes, without allowing it to boil. Cover the rims of the cups or glasses with lime and sugar and pour in the liquid and serve.

Happy cooking!

Colombian Christmas Traditions Day 2

**Every night for the nine nights before Christmas Colombians celebrate novenas, so I will be writing a blog post every day about Colombian Christmas traditions. Feliz Navidad!**

Today is December 17, the second day of novenas, and my second of nine bog posts about Colombian Christmas traditions.

There are many foods that are traditionally eaten around Christmastime in Colombia. My personal favorite is buñuelos. Buñuelos are a delicious dough ball with cheese and are fried, so they’re nice and crispy on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside.

Buñuelos

Natilla and paneton are typical Christmas desserts. Natilla is a cake with a texture a bit like flan and the primary ingredients are milk, panela, and cornstarch. People often make it with arequipe as well. Paneton is a more traditional cake, baked in a round form with a hole in the middle, and is usually made with dried fruits or chocolate chips.

Natilla

Paneton

The traditional Colombian family Christmas meal is served on Christmas Eve, and the main dish is turkey. Pretty much the only time you can find turkey in Colombia is around Christmastime.

Traditional drinks, which can be found all year round but are even more prevalent at Christmastime, are canelazo and hot chocolate. Canelazo is agua de panela with a shot of aguardiente and a bit of lime and sugar, and sometimes cinnamon as well. It is delicious and will warm you up right away. Hot chocolate is the same as anywhere else, but in Colombia people often melt cheese in the hot chocolate and then eat it or dip their bread in the hot chocolate.

Canelazo

Tomorrow I will have recipes for all of the foods mentioned today!

Beginning of Novenas

Today is December 16, and in Colombia, on this day begins the Christmas tradition of novenas. Every night for the nine nights before Christmas, Colombians celebrate novenas, and so I will be writing a blog post every day about Colombian Christmas traditions. Happy Holidays!

So what are novenas? Literally the word means “ninths,” for the nine days of celebration before Christmas. From December 16 – December 24, family and friends gather in a different person’s home each night to eat traditional Colombian Christmas food, sing Christmas carols in front of the nativity set (in Spanish, pesebre), and drink traditional holiday beverages.

Novenas are traditionally a religious custom; the nine days are symbolic of Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus, and families gather to pray in front of the nativity scene. Some families continue this tradition, but also, especially for younger people, novenas are a time to gather together, eat, and drink.

La Noche de las Velitas

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). Continue reading