Culture: How Colombians celebrate their holidays

Colombian holidays
Festivo de Corpus Christi. Photo by Katche Fotografia

With one less holiday than Argentina, Colombia enjoys the second most holidays of any country. However, Barranquilleros celebrate two additional days!

Despite the fact that Colombia’s constitution guarantees equality of religion, our culture is heavily influenced by Christianity, and that’s reflected in both holidays and celebrations.

Barranquilleros love parties, and they like to celebrate, so don’t be surprised if you ask some Barranquilleros why the 9th of May is a public holiday, and they don’t even know the answer. I learned about it while writing this article. Barranquilleros just care about what to do that day and how to spend their free time.

In fact, the Barranquilla’s Carnaval is the second biggest carnaval in the world after Brasil. Barranquilleros celebrate almost everything, especially birthdays. If a foreigner receives a formal invitation to a birthday party, take care to bring a gift, especially if it is in an events hall with the number of guests provided on the card, or if they enforce a dress code.

Meanwhile, the informality of the so-called “fiestas caseras”(house parties) is a common feature of this type of celebration. These casual events are word-of-mouth, with chairs covering the patios for people so that everyone can enjoy a very relaxed environment. After the first drink is offered by the host, don’t be surprised if they ask for money to “Hacer la vaca,” (whip-round), which means they will collect money to buy another bottle or more beer. If you don’t want to be the “gorrero” of the party (scrounger), just be part of the gathering.

Some of the major holidays are: The Epiphany (Los Tres Reyes Magos) on January 6; St Joseph’s day on March 19 (Dia de San Jose); Holy week, Opus Dei, Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Assumption of Mary, All Saints’ day, The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary are just few of the main celebrations in Colombia, but not all these feasts are celebrated because of Christianity. Colombians also have civic holidays such as International Workers’ day (May 1st), Independence Day (July 20th) and so on. Check out the rest of the festivo calendar here.

So, if you’re a foreigner, just be part of the culture and plan your vacations according to the Colombian calendar and enjoy the free time!

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Carlos Guerra is a person who loves writing. His experience teaching Spanish to foreigners and his job as a Language and Culture Facilitator for the Peace Corps was his motivation to start writing about Barranquilla’s culture. He considers himself an ambassador of the Caribbean culture and Colombia. He loves teaching English and Spanish and enjoys learning from different cultures.