Yup, it’s mid-November and already the stores are lining the window fittings with Christmas adornments here in Bogota. Families are planning their escape from the capital to various regions about Colombia, perhaps to their home regions or perhaps like many, they yearn for a change of scenery.
There is no bleak midwinter here in Bogota, you’re not going to experience a snowfall and so, you got it, no white Christmas. The closest you are going to get to a white Christmas is just the ubiquitous fake snow sprayed into the corners of shop windows that best resembles a chaotic spider’s web more than Christmas scene.
Colombians are no different from anyone else, they too leave their shopping and travel plans to the last minute and so the mad rush to stock up on presents, liquor and buy airline or bus tickets is as present here as it is back in the US.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for Christmas in Bogota
- Do go and see the spectacular Christmas lights – el alumbrado – in the Parque Nacional, Plaza de Bolivar, and Parque 93
- Don’t even consider going on their inaugural evening. Don’t go in the car.
- Do head down to Galerias on Calle 53 for cheap Christmas decorations.
- Don’t go in the final days before Christmas and you will be in a stampede.
- If planning on travelling, do book your flights or bus tickets and accommodation now.
- Don’t leave it until the last minute as there is a biblical exodus from Bogota for these dates.
- Do enjoy the Dia de las Velitas, buy candles and on December 7 place them outside your building.
- Don’t buy dangerous knock off fireworks.
- Do buy your gifts in November.
- Don’t go to the shopping malls the weekend before Christmas.
- Do buy a plastic Christmas tree and decorate it with Colombian chintz.
- Don’t cut one down a pine from the Cerros Orientales, this is illegal and will land you in trouble.
- If invited to a Colombian home, do comment on the fine redecoration (Colombians like to renovate their homes before Christmas), and bring a bottle.
- Don’t ask why there is an unpainted wall in the hallway!
- Do eat everything on your plate at Christmas dinner and of course ask for more.
- Don’t ask if it’s from the supermarket.
- Do dress up for Christmas in Colombia.
- Don’t come in havaianas and shorts a la backpacker chic.
- Do remember that Christmas dinner is on the 24th of December and that this meal will run from 7pm until midnight.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal at lunchtime or mix up your dates to arrive on the 25th.
- Do bring a bottle, preferably whiskey, for your hosts.
- And don’t try and buy presents for the whole family, Colombians are good Catholics and after handing out dozens of gifts to every nephew, niece and cousin you’ll be significantly poorer.