Celebrating New Year’s: Colombian Style Traditions

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Colombian New Year traditions are a vibrant reflection of the country’s rich culture and heritage. In Medellin and throughout Colombia, these traditions are celebrated with enthusiasm and joy, creating a unique and unforgettable experience for both locals and visitors.

From colorful festivities to symbolic customs, Colombian New Year traditions hold deep meaning and significance. These practices have been passed down from generation to generation, representing the spirit of revelry and the desire for a prosperous year ahead.

What Are Medellin’s New Year Tradition:

  • Eating 12 Grapes at Midnight
  • Wearing Yellow Underwear 
  • Having Cash in Your hand or Pocket at Midnight
  • Cleaning the house on New Year’s Eve
  • Starting on the year on your right food.
  • Burning a doll for the old year
  • Walking around the blog with your luggage
  • Playing the song “Faltan Cinco Pa Las Doce” before midnight

Medellin New Year Tradition Break Down

Colombian New Year traditions are deeply rooted in culture, reflecting a spirit of celebration and hope. Key practices include wearing yellow underwear for prosperity, eating 12 grapes for each month’s wishes, and participating in cleansing rituals. These customs symbolize desires for wealth, success, and happiness. Family gatherings are central, fostering unity and joy. The “Heroic Colombia New Year’s Traditions Quest” embodies these practices with rituals like buying new outfits, house cleaning, and symbolic activities to ensure a prosperous year ahead. The burning of effigies, or “Año Viejo,” marks letting go of the old year, emphasizing renewal and community.

1. The Grape Ritual

Celebrating New Year's: Colombian Style Traditions -
Image by Vinotecarium from Pixabay

To make their wishes come true, Colombians practice the tradition of eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. Each grape represents a wish for the upcoming year. By consuming the grapes, Colombians hope to manifest their desires and set positive intentions for the future.

2. Yellow Underwear for Good Fortune

Celebrating New Year's: Colombian Style Traditions -
Photo by iStock

One of the most prominent traditions in Colombia’s New Year celebrations is the wearing of yellow underwear on New Year’s Eve. This unique practice holds deep symbolism and is believed to bring wealth, success, and abundance in the coming year. Yellow represents gold, signifying prosperity, and wearing yellow underwear is a way for Colombians to attract financial fortune and good luck.

But the yellow underwear tradition is just one example of the symbolic customs that Colombians embrace during their New Year festivities. These customs reflect the Colombian desire for prosperity, love, and adventure in the new year.

3. Prosperity with Lentils and Money

The practice of putting lentils in one’s pockets is believed to bring prosperity and abundance. This tradition, along with holding money in hand at midnight, is rooted in the belief that these actions will lead to financial success in the coming year.

4. Suitcase for Travel

In a quest to invite travel opportunities and adventures, Colombians often take a stroll around the block with a suitcase on New Year’s Eve. This custom symbolizes the desire to explore new horizons and embark on exciting journeys in the coming year. It is a way for Colombians to manifest their aspirations for adventure, exploration, and personal growth.

5. Starting on the Right Foot:

Literally stepping into the New Year with the right foot is seen as a way to ensure a positive start. This simple yet significant act is a metaphor for beginning the year on a good note.

6. Burning the Old Year (Año Viejo)

One of the more visually striking traditions is the burning of the Año Viejo, a doll made of old clothes and stuffed with firecrackers or other materials. Representing the old year and its troubles, setting it ablaze symbolizes letting go of the past and making room for new beginnings.

7. Deep Cleaning for a Fresh Start

Colombia has a rich cultural heritage, and the New Year traditions are deeply rooted in the country’s history and beliefs. The burning effigies tradition and cleansing rituals represent a collective desire for personal growth, renewal, and positivity.

Cleansing the house is not only a physical act but also a spiritual one. Colombians believe that a clean and harmonious environment attracts positive energy and prosperity. By meticulously cleaning every corner of the house, they create a space conducive to new beginnings and opportunities.

8. A Feast to Remember

Colombian New Year’s celebrations are incomplete without an array of traditional foods and drinks. From special dishes to the ubiquitous presence of Aguardiente, a local anise-flavored liquor, the culinary aspect is central to the celebrations.

9. Family at the Forefront

The New Year in Colombia is primarily a family affair. Most festivities and traditions are family-centric, reflecting the strong emphasis on familial bonds in Colombian culture.

10. Music and Dance

Music, especially the traditional song “Faltan Cinco Pa Las Doce,” is an integral part of the New Year’s celebration. Dancing and joyous music set the tone for a lively and festive atmosphere.

These traditions, from the symbolic to the celebratory, are not just rituals but a reflection of the hopes, dreams, and cultural values of the Colombian people. They embody a unique blend of historical influences and contemporary practices, making the Colombian New Year a vivid tapestry of cultural expression.

11. Carrying Cash for Financial Security

Another symbolic tradition is carrying cash in your pocket or wallet during the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Colombians believe that having money on hand at midnight will ensure financial security and stability throughout the year. It is seen as a way to attract abundance and create a strong foundation for a prosperous future.

Letting Go of the Old and Welcoming the New

Colombians have a fascinating tradition that involves letting go of the old year and embracing new beginnings with cleansing rituals and burning effigies. This unique custom, known as the burning effigies tradition, holds deep symbolic meaning and is an integral part of New Year celebrations in Colombia.

The burning effigies, called “Año Viejo,” are life-sized dolls or figures made from old clothes, newspapers, and other materials. They represent the burdens, negative aspects, and challenges of the past year. By burning these effigies at midnight, Colombians symbolically release and let go of the old, making space for new possibilities and fresh starts in the upcoming year. It’s a powerful way for people to leave the past behind and embrace new beginnings.

In addition to the burning effigies tradition, Colombians also engage in cleansing rituals to purify their homes and lives for the new year. Cleaning the house is seen as a way to remove negative energies and make way for positive vibrations and good luck. It’s an opportunity to start the year with a fresh and clean environment, free from any lingering negativity from the past.

These cleansing rituals and the burning effigies tradition highlight the Colombian belief in the power of letting go and the significance of embracing new beginnings. It’s a time for reflection, introspection, and renewal as Colombians bid farewell to the old and welcome the possibilities and opportunities of the new year.

The burning effigies tradition, on the other hand, is a powerful metaphor for leaving behind the past and embracing the future. As the effigies burn, the negative aspects of the previous year are symbolically released into the fire, making room for new experiences, growth, and personal transformation.

This tradition is also an opportunity for communities to come together and celebrate. Families and friends gather around bonfires, sharing stories, laughter, and hopes for the future. It’s a time of unity and reflection, strengthening the bonds between loved ones and creating a sense of belonging.

The combination of cleansing rituals and the burning effigies tradition in Colombia creates an atmosphere of renewal, hope, and excitement. By practicing these customs, Colombians not only bid farewell to the old year but also welcome the new one with open hearts and minds, ready to embrace new opportunities, experiences, and adventures.

Celebrating with Family and Loved Ones

Colombian New Year celebrations are not only about the vibrant festivities but also about the strong sense of family and togetherness. Family plays a central role in these celebrations, as Colombians prioritize spending time with their loved ones and showing affection. After completing the New Year traditions, people visit their family members to exchange well wishes and embrace the new year together.

This cherished family tradition strengthens the bonds between relatives and creates a deep sense of unity. It is a time when generations come together to share joy, laughter, and hopes for the future. As the clock strikes midnight, families huddle together, toasting with champagne or Colombian aguardiente, and eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new year.

While family gatherings are at the heart of Colombian New Year celebrations, the festivities continue beyond the home. Young people, eager for a night of revelry, gather in Medellin’s lively nightclubs and dance their way into the new year. These vibrant parties, accompanied by pulsating music and colorful lights, contribute to the spirited atmosphere that defines Medellin’s New Year festivities.

Colombian New Year is a joyous occasion that embraces both family traditions and exuberant celebrations. It is a time when Colombians come together with their loved ones to reflect on the past year and welcome the promise of new beginnings. Whether surrounded by family, dancing in a club, or enjoying a mixture of both, Colombian New Year celebrations create cherished memories and strengthen the bonds that hold families and communities together.


What are some of the Colombian New Year traditions?

Colombian New Year traditions include wearing yellow underwear, eating 12 grapes at midnight, carrying cash for financial security, and walking around the block with a suitcase for travel opportunities.

What is the significance of wearing yellow underwear on New Year’s Eve?

Wearing yellow underwear on New Year’s Eve is believed to bring wealth, success, and abundance in the coming year. Yellow symbolizes new beginnings, vitality, and energy.

What is the tradition of burning effigies in Colombia?

Colombians have a tradition of burning effigies, called “Año Viejo,” at midnight on New Year’s Eve. These effigies symbolize the burdens and negative aspects of the past year, signifying a fresh start and leaving behind the old.

How do Colombians celebrate New Year with their family?

Family plays a central role in Colombian New Year celebrations. Colombians prioritize spending time with their loved ones, exchanging well wishes for the new year, and strengthening familial bonds.

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