My Great Aunt Nora clarified that at Christmas, the main holiday ritual in Colombia to celebrate the “novena” or 9 days of Christmas, not the twelve days celebrated here in the US. Between December16-24th, 9 families will coordinate parties at each of their homes. Everyone is invited to all the parties especially those who are hosting at some point. If you are invited but not one of the families hosting, it is customary to bring a lavish hostess gift. The party starts with a prayer, then food, songs and candies. People are expected to dress as lavish and festive as possible. It is traditional that each home will have a “Natividad” a nativity scene with baby Jesus in the manger and the three kings. Ironically, even though Jesus was born in a simple manger, people like to spend lots of money to buy very elaborate and beautiful manger that can take up a large coffee table to show off, which is a cultural traditional aspect of most Colombians, to always want to show off as much as possible even when it is not called for.
Analysis: I find it especially hilarious when they incorporate English Christmas villages with fake snow as ground covering and glowing windows in the cottages. As if the warm arid climate of Bethlehem would have look like that. Baby Jesus is always depicted as white having blue eyes and dirty blonde curls. There is strong cultural bias that having white skin, light colored eyes and light colored hair is highly desirable in Colombia. I once traded out baby Jesus at my grandmother’s house with a African American baby Jesus just see her reaction, priceless. The practice of holiday rituals even for those who do not attend church or practice their religion except during the holidays make these rituals even more important since they have to make up for their lapse from the rest of the year.