Celebrating Christmas in Cali

 

It isn’t my first time to be out of Germany for Christmas time. But it is the first time outside of Europe for the Christmas period. And of course I’m suffering a bit of Nostalgia. I’m missing my family, my dog and my friends, but as well, you won’t believe it, I’m missing the wintertime. Without the cold, the short days, the uncomfortable weather I don’t really get emotional in front of Christmas Eve. One aspect is similar, in Germany and in Colombia you can already buy Christmas things in November.  After Halloween the shops fill their space with Christmas stuff. Loads of it!

All the houses and apartments are decorated in the beginning of December for the Christmas period. The decoration is colorful. The illumination changes its light velocity and it’s colours. The Christmas tree as well has this kind of illumination. So sometimes I rather felt like in a disco than in the Christmas period. This kind of decoration I saw in Bogotá, Medellín and in Cali. So I think it’s similar in whole Colombia.

But Cali is special. You have such a warm climate there, that I only thought about summer holidays and not about buying Christmas presents. Another big thing in Cali is the “Feria” where are many street processions, parties and loads of Salsa. Well this starts at the 25th of December. So there is not much time to being in a German Christmas mood. There you are just dancing, celebrating and talking all the time. Well it feels like summertime!

The day of Christmas Eve we started really calmly. We watched some TV and in the evening we had a light dinner. So on the Christmas Eve we didn’t have to prepare anything because already the whole apartment was decorated and since the Colombians don’t have real trees the tree was already decorated and inside. Loads of free time, but I realized that you need this time to relax during daytime because in Cali life is during nighttime. You will see what I mean.

There is one special traditional which I almost forgot to mention. This tradition is a preparation for the Christmas Eve and it’s called “Novenas”. It is a catholic custom in Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. The last 9 days from the 16th to the 24th of December they pray together in their circle of neighbourhood, family or friends. The prayers are about Maria and Joseph, the time before the birth of Jesus. After the prayers, every person reads a paragraph, they sing together. I as well was part of the reunion. Every one of the family was invited. After the “Novenas” we were siting, drinking and eating together. It was a nice reunion of the family. But this all happened in the night time, around 10pm. For them it was early and after midnight we danced a bit of salsa in the apartment. This was really nice but really different to that what I’m used to do in the Christmas period.  But still I enjoyed it big time to be part of this other culture.

But now back to the Christmas Eve. As I said we prepared I light dinner, what means sausage and potato salad, accompanied with Champaign. Well some of you would think now, sausage and potato salad sound a bit more German than Colombian. No this kind of meal was different. But well I ate it. After the meal we left the house around 22pm to visit the rest of the family which means aunts and grandma. There we got another meal, and guess what it was the same sausage with salad and rice. And it wouldn’t be the last one. As the tradition in Colombia says the presents will be handed out at 12pm. So the kids in the family were really excited half an hour before the big event. Normally the Colombians don’t really put importance to the time, but at the Christmas Eve the presents were handed out at point 12pm. We would be really happy with this punctuality.

After this great familiar meeting (Thanks again!) we went to the other part of family. There we got as well some present and guess what else!? Yes the Christmas meal. And of course it was the same. But it was a great night. We had drinks, talked and danced Salsa. So only at 3am the first guest went home to get some sleep before the „Feria“will start. We did the same and went home „early“. At 4am I was in my bed. It was a pleasure to celebrate Christmas with this nice and friendly family from Cali. Thanks so much!

The next day we didn’t bother to go to „Feria“. The reason for that decision was some changes which were made. They changed the route of the street procession and for some shows you need to buy a ticket. This was new, so we decided to watch the important things of the “Feria” in the TV and spend the rest of the day outside at the river “Pansa”.

For me it was a great decision because the dad of my friend Ale and I went by bike, the rest in car. I was delighted that the family was so great to organize a bike for me. After so much food the day before I was pleased to get some workout. The river is a popular place to spend the day with your family. This kind of things is really in common here. Sunday or Saturday you will go out with your family to eat in the park. The women cook beforehand in the house and then they take all with them.  As well they had really big barbeques in the streets besides the cars. Well I was a bit shocked but they just will say: Keep cool. Nothing will happen.  Anyway we went up hill with the bikes and it was good fun. Unfortunately I didn’t have so much time to take photos. But the natural park near Cali is beautiful.

       

         

The „Feria de Cali” started with the traditional horse riders, which is called “Cabalgata” the following day. Normally it should have started by 1pm, but as usually it has delayed. So we got to see the first ones two hours later. In the mean time we enjoyed the crowed and some drinks. Some impressions of the “horse show”:

      

      

     

       

This procession wasn’t structured at all, at least for me it wasn’t. Some Colombians said later one that the structure and organization of this “Feria” was a lot of better than the years before. But who knows…and of course the male people were very attracted to the female riders.

        

 

But not enough I also had a sightseeing tour in the city center. And I visit my first Zoo in Colombia. I wasn’t really overwhelmed by the city center of Cali but the Zoo was really impressive. The animals are really fascinating. And as well the butterfly garden was great. Many visitors had butterfly on their hands or clothes. So it was easy to take some nearby photos from these nice creatures.

         

              

          The city center offers  as well nice places to visit and there in the older part I really find some great artwork. What I liked most in Cali is the way of living, the salsa, the feria and its crazy and friendly inhabitants. But here my impressions of the city: