Colombian Traditions: Día de las Velitas (Candlelight Day)

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Colombian Traditions: Día de las Velitas (Candlelight Day)

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December 7, 2023

Waking up at 3 am to light candles in the street in pajamas – yes, that was me from the age of 2 to 13. This might sound like just another crazy Colombian tradition, but I consider it one of the most meaningful ones. In this article, I will explain why it holds so much significance for us, Colombians.

“El Día de las Velitas” or “Little Candles Day” in English, is a national holiday celebrated in Colombia as the vigil of the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. This dogma was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in the bull Ineffabilis Deus on December 8, 1854. The purpose of the dogma is to assert that the Virgin Mary was preserved immune from any stain of original guilt from the first moment of her conception.

While Colombia does not have an official religion, Roman Catholicism is the dominant faith, deeply ingrained in the culture. Various studies and surveys suggest that approximately 90% of Colombians identify as Christian, therefore, there is a significant devotion towards the Virgin Mary among Colombians, making “El día de las velitas” an important holiday in the tropical country.

The Perfect Day for Family Reunions

Families generally come together on December 7 to light candles, enjoy delicious food, sip their favorite drinks and lose themselves in the rhythm of dance for a few blissful hours. It’s not just a celebration; it’s a symphony of laughter and connection. This day is perfect for sharing memories and catching up with our loved ones.

New Clothes to Celebrate

For many Colombians, wearing new clothes during the festivities holds significant importance, (Including “El Día de las Velitas”)This tradition symbolizes the initiation of a new beginning and a rejuvenation of spirits as we immerse ourselves in the joyful celebrations of December. Consequently, you will likely see crowded malls as people partake in the tradition of acquiring new attire for the festive season.

One Candle for Each Loved One and Their Prosperity

Another thing I absolutely love about this day is lighting each candle  with a specific intention. For example, one candle for Grandma and Grandpa so their health remains good, and one for my sisters so their discipline and bravery endure. These are just a few examples of the intentions that we usually set during “La Noche de Las Velitas.” 

Regardless of religious affiliation, I believe that lighting a candle on a special night with a special intention is so valuable. That’s why, even though I don’t practice any religion, I continue to support this holiday.

The Blessings of the Virgin Mary 

One belief that Colombians hold about this day is that Mary walks every street after 3 am, blessing every house. This is why we light up the candles at this time. However, different cities have different beliefs about this day. This article is based on my experience as someone from the Caribbean region of Colombia.

In Conclusion

“El Día de las Velitas” is not just a religious practice; it is a cultural celebration that brings families together, preserves our traditions, and allows for reflection and intention-setting through the symbolic act of lighting a little candle. Think of it like a big, colorful tapestry impregnated with the essence of Colombians.

Lighting those candles isn’t just a routine; it’s a symbol that screams ‘Colombian pride.’ It’s like a warm hug that brings generations together, passing down traditions like a secret handshake that everyone’s in. And it’s not just about family, it spills out into the neighborhood, turning streets into this magical maze of flickering lights that connect us all, no matter where we come from or what we believe in. So, yeah, “El Día de las Velitas” is like our way of shouting, “Hey world, this is who we are, and we love it!”



Karin Mendez originally from the coast of Colombia now residing in Medellin. Karin enjoys writing about technology and Culture; When she’s not writing she enjoys nature walks at the park.

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