An Entire Year Ends with Christmas in Latin America
I’ve finally celebrated my first New Years and Christmas in Latin America. Looking back I have to say that 2013 was a good year. I arrived in Colombia on January 25th of 2013 and pretty much settled in. My original plan was actually to only be here for 2 months, but that plan went to crap pretty quickly. I was able to stretch my six month budget into an entire year and eventually started a company here in Medellin. Hopefully, if all goes well, I will be staying here for the foreseeable future and 2014 should be an even better year.
But enough about my life the past year. You could pretty much go through the blog and figure out all about that. I want to share with you the experiences I had throughout the holidays here in Medellin.
A Whole Month of Festivities
The holidays really began at midnight on the first of december with fireworks displays spread across the city lasting well into the afternoon. I had been invited to several parties for the 31st of November, but I chose instead to invite some friends to my apartment and watch the sky light up from my balcony. We sat watching the show until the early morning hours before my few guests decided it was time to go home. I tried to get some sleep myself but it was impossible with the never ending explosions. Finally, sometime around 7 AM I drifted off to sleep. I awaken again at 10 AM to fireworks continuing to explode outside my apartment. The shows finally stopped at 4 PM when it began to rain.
Merry Christmas, Medellin!
I assumed that Christmas would be generally the same everywhere. Bad assumption! For starters, Christmas Eve was when the celebrations mainly took place. And unlike in the U.S. where it’s normally a mellow family day, Christmas Eve was an all day, all night party. I went to a friend’s house for a BBQ in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Medellin. At around 7 in the evening a grill came out and music was blared that would rival a night club. Everyone drank and partied in the street until again the morning hours.
On Christmas day the parities were still raging. I enjoyed some BBQ ribs with friends from the States in Envigado, the town directly south of Medellin. After our peaceful dinner, their Colombian family joined us for a few rounds of rum and small talk. What was expected to be a gathering of just five of us turned into ten before I made my way back home. After the Christmas Eve party I was running on only about three hours of sleep and decided to call it in early.
Of course, I can’t write about Christmas in Medellin without commenting on the decorations. Medellin is famous for it’s spectacular Christmas lights. The city has often been rated as having some of the best decorations worldwide. Everywhere I went the streets were (and still are) lit with elaborate decorations stretching vast lengths of roads and the river. There were entire parks that didn’t have an unlit tree and highly trafficked streets completely blocked off for the lights and visitors. And it all spread far beyond Medellin. I also got the chance to enjoy the decorations in Envigado and Jardin! All-in-all, I have to say I’ve never seen a more magnificent display of Christmas lights despite the lack of snow.
Happy 2014 Colombia!
My assumptions continued to make a fool of me when I assumed New Years would be a party as well. NEW YEARS! One of the biggest party nights world-wide! Not here, it was much more a family night. Streets were empty and bars closed. There were plenty of family events and I had yet another BBQ with an old Army buddy. It was the closest thing to family I could have asked for and a wonderful time. When my date informed me early on that her family was pissed that she had come with me instead of staying in with their family. That blew my mind. I can’t imagine my family expecting me to stay at home on New Years.
Traditions also varied drastically. There was no stroke of midnight kissing. Instead, people ran around wishing everyone they could a successful 2014. Families roamed the streets with their luggage in hand in the hopes that 2014 would allow them to travel. At around 3 AM a large group of people walked down the street chanting. My buddy from the States and I sat dumbstruck. I was expecting a pentagram to be painted on the ground and a virgin to be sacrificed at any moment. My date broke into tears and told us how beautiful it all was.
Sometimes it’s easy to think that I’ve been around long enough to know the customs and traditions here, but there’s always something hiding behind the next corner.