A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – Christmas in Bogota – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
While I didn’t spent Christmas or New Years in Colombia, as a teacher of culture and language I unavoidably discussed family holiday traditions with my students, and also learned a little about holiday traditions in Colombia from those in my teaching program that decided to stay in Colombia for the holidays.
What happens in Bogota for Christmas?
Well, before Christmas, there are large displays of holiday lights that go up in the “parks” in downtown Bogota. Being a mainly Catholic country, it isn’t surprising to see light displays of the three wise men bringing gifts to baby Jesus or an actual nativity scene sitting out on public property. Bogota and Medellin are the two cities best known for their Christmas lights and decorations, though Medellin is said to have such a good lights display that people often travel to the city just to see them.
(Medellin’s Christmas lights feature alligators and hippos.)
I’m not entirely sure if it’s considered a tradition, but from living in Bogota during the days before Christmas I can say that Christmas hats are a very big thing. Many of the street vendors in Bogota switch out their stock based on the season, and for Christmas they invest heavily in crazy Christmas hats that light up and feature little bells at the end. If you walk down the Septima (one of the major streets in Bogota) in the evening, you’ll see families out for a walk with each of the children wearing a long stocking cap striped with red, green, and white, or a hat with a giant waving, light-up snowman.
As for during Christmas, many Colombians I’ve met jokingly say that nothing happens in Bogota for Christmas. The reason? Everybody in Bogota travels wherever else possible during the holidays. Bogota is one of the coldest large cities in Colombia, so warmth and sun is often the goal and huge amounts of families travel to the coast (Cartagena, Cali, Santa Marta, and Barranquilla) during the holiday season. The coast is packed, and prices skyrocket in the December-January season for flights and hotels.
In contrast, prices for Bogota hotels in December are nearly halved. A hotel that is usually 150,000 pesos a night (about $50 USD) will drop to 90,000 pesos (about $30 USD).
About our special correspondent Laura Blasena: Ever since I was a little Kindergartner I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.
I graduated from St. Scholastica in the summer of 2015 with a double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Education after student teaching as a 5th grade teacher and also as a Spanish teacher at NorthStar in Duluth, Minnesota.
While my future plans before graduation were initially to become a classroom teacher, I decided to wait a year to begin teaching in the United States and have chosen to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I will be working with a university as an assistant in the language department, attending classes, running conversation clubs, and offering the perspective of a native speaker.
I’ve always loved to travel. In college, I participated in several study abroad trips, visiting England, Guatemala, and Mexico. (I loved visiting Mexico so much that I even went back a second time!). I’m looking forward to the travel opportunities that I will have while working and living in Colombia.
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