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Hope-filled Advent traditions in Colombia | Advent Around the World

Katia Bejarano

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Children in Colombia celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary (Photo credit: Reg Natarajan, cropped and used under the terms of licence CC BY 2.0.
From my window in Toronto, I see the snowflakes falling on the pine trees in my backyard. They quickly disappear leaving me with a sense of hope for the days to come.
Nature seems to have begun its seasonal transformation, beckoning us to reflect on the passing year, inviting us to prayer and preparation and to feel within ourselves the sublime and indefinable love Christmas brings with the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
In my hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia, the northern winds arrive, the heat softens, and hope seems to come into our homes from underneath our doors. We feel great anticipation for the coming of Him who brought us a message of love and brotherhood, Jesus. At Sunday Mass, we feel joyful with messages that make hope feel real. Family dinners after Mass carry with them the excitement and hopeful expectation of seeing all our loved ones when Christmas arrives.
Advent begins for us on December 7th with the Day of the Little Candles, celebrating the Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception. It is the official start to Christmas festivities in Colombia. To celebrate the Mother of Jesus, parties are organized at night with family and friends sharing moments of joy while dancing to the rhythm of our beautiful Colombian music. Before dawn breaks and the new day begins, we come out and start lighting candles and colourful lanterns, placing them in our front gardens adorning the streets of our cities. Catholics all around the country honour the Virgin Mary imagining her passing through the streets illuminated with flames of love.
During Advent we feel an air of hope that strengthens our faith. Nativity scenes, villages, and figurines are dusted off and decorated amid the hubbub of children and the laughter of their parents and family members. Children write wish lists of presents they hope Baby Jesus will bring on December 25th and leave them at the foot of the manger. Joy is everywhere.
When December 16th arrives, families gather to pray the Novena de Aguinaldos, honouring the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, and Baby Jesus. For nine days families and friends gather in a different home each night until Christmas Eve, preparing for the coming of Baby Jesus. We pray and sing Christmas songs accompanied by guitars and other musical instruments while sharing appetizers and sweet treats.
The beautiful days of Advent make us feel and believe in the possibility that one day men and women from every corner of the earth will be able to live in harmony, understanding our differences and recognizing our similarities. In this waiting for the coming of the One who showed us a path of love and understanding, we continue to hope the birth of Jesus will bring us to that path.
In my native Colombia, Jesus lives in our traditions and celebrations. His arrival is awaited with music, food, love, and hope. In my Canada, snowfall brings prayers, Christmas carols, and Christmas markets. Children in both look forward to December 25th. It’s Navidad; it’s Christmas. Let us enjoy our children's excitement during the festivities, and may our preparations to receive Jesus motivate us to write down our hopes and prayers, which we will leave at the foot of the manger.
May these days in the midst of temperate winds and snow allow us to reflect on the ever-present Christmas message of the arrival of Jesus, and may we, as followers of Christ, continue to strive to truly live in unity, peace, and justice.

Katia Bejarano is a retired lawyer who specialized in Colombian corporate labour law. She also holds a business degree from Tulane University. A volunteer at the Art Gallery of Ontario and part-time employee of the Canadian Opera Company, she is a wife, mother, and grandmother.

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