How I celebrate Christmas: Colombian style

Say what you want but I still get presents 9 hours before you do so who’s the real winner here?

Imagine waking up Christmas morning with your siblings and parents more ready than ever to open presents in your pajamas. Then you spend the entire day with family and friends at home or maybe go and watch a movie. For me, Christmas has always been a little bit more than that.

In Colombia, we had many different traditions related to Christmas that we choose to carry out every year here in the United States as well. At the very root of it, Christmas has always been more than just a big man in a costume coming to your house and dropping off presents.

Last year’s Christmas picture color scheme (see below to get the reference)

Christmas, for us, really truly begins on the 15th of December. During this time, we start the Novena. This includes 9 days of prayer and singing for about an hour every night. It really is a time for us to come together as a family and forget about all our responsibilities and spend time with each other for a small amount of time.

Baby me on the left, starting the Novena (yes my head is shaved but that’s a story for a different time)

Then on the ninth night (the 24th) our family celebrates Christmas. I’ve come to realize that this is more of a non-American tradition as the majority of my friends seem surprised when I mention it to them. Regardless, on the morning of the 24th we wake up to find all of the presents under the tree. My sister and I, along with my cousins and family friends, all have to wait until midnight to open presents.

Not only do we wait until midnight on Christmas Eve to open presents, but we also HAVE to take a million pictures (thanks, mom) so really we don’t get to it for a while after #rip

There is usually a big Christmas Eve meal that we all have full of tamales, paella, mute and carne asada. Once midnight hits, we sit around a tree and either my dad or my uncle gives out the presents to all of the kids. One of the unique things that we do is that, while the idea of Santa is still present in the way we celebrate Christmas, we actually think of it more as a baby Jesus delivering our presents (strange I know). So, a lot of the times the tags on the presents will say “From: Divino Niño To: Catalina.”

My cousin and I pretending all the presents were for us, but alas only the little kids get hella presents.

After presents are opened we stay up for a couple more hours and look at pictures of Christmases from over the years. The next day my mom likes to get together all the kids and take a group picture with all of us in matching outfits (I kid you not, we’ve done this for like 7 years in a row). We’ll all go to the beach and take pictures in that year’s color scheme. Now that I think about it, it’s like a Christmas card picture – only after the fact and we never actually send anything out.

Sadly not joking about the color scheme thing

Even though Christmas for me might not be like everyone else’s, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. And I mean, hey nothing beats getting presents a whole 9 hours before your friends.

University of Virginia