Friday, December 8, 2017

Noche de las Velitas

Last night, December 7th, was an important event for Colombians. La Noche de las Velitas, or Night of the Little Candles, is a time when people light candles and lanterns to celebrate the Virgin Mary. I was told by a friend here at the hotel that the lights are meant to light her way to the place where she will give birth to Jesus Christ (a bit early, since he wasn’t born for a few more weeks, right?). Wikipedia informs me that this celebration dates back to December 7th, 1854, when Pope Pius IX defined as dogma the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, published in his Apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus. In anticipation of this decision, people lit candles and paper lanterns to show their support and belief in this idea. This event happens on the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate ConcepciĆ³n, a public holiday here in Colombia (one of many Catholic holidays that are observed by the whole country—interesting concept since, in the US, we technically have a separation between church and state and don’t publicly celebrate any religious holidays, which is sort of a shame considering how many public holidays they have here in Colombia!).

The event is also called the Alumbrado de Navidad and it is the unofficial start of the Christmas season in Colombia. Indeed unofficial, as I have been seeing Christmas decorations popping up around the city as early as October! Colombians looooooove Christmas!

I assure you these two photos were taken in a mall in Cartagena on October 30th!

Here on the coast, they have the tradition of lighting the candles in the very early morning on December 8th, unlike in most other parts of the county that celebrate it the evening before. Still, we saw plenty of candles lit as we walked around the walled city, and it was a beautiful sight to see.

In other Christmas related news, have I mentioned that this city goes totally Christmas crazy!? Seriously. The build up to the holiday season here is intense. Buildings get new paint jobs. Street medians get new trees. Potted plants get new soil. Roads get re-paved. Lamp posts get decked out. People build and sell giant Christmas-themed lawn ornaments on the street. 

Full moon and the walled city

Carrera 1, the street between us and the beach!

Okay, so I can’t quite figure out if it’s baby Jesus they’re getting spiffy for or the hoards of tourists that descend on Cartagena in the high season. Unfortunately, high season has officially begun and therefore so have long lines at the grocery store, atrocious traffic (and I thought it was bad before…), and sky-high prices. Either way, the city is looking quite beautiful these days, and the hotel too!

The resident sweethearts at the Hotel Bellavista!

Hope you’re enjoying the holiday season wherever you are! 

Here I am as a sheep in the Christmas play at the German Cultural haus!