If you’re a foodie, you likely make it a point to try foods from all over the world. Spices, herbs, and cooking methods excite you and you’re ready to try anything set before you.
In many countries, Christmas celebrations may vary. But the one thing they all have in common is festive foods.
That’s because all through history, people have always associated food with celebrations. Weddings, Christmas, and even religious holidays have food to symbolize specific events.
Today, we talk about Colombian Christmas food. We’ll take a look at the history and meaning behind the holiday, too. So keep reading to find out more about this South American country and how they celebrate.
Colombian Christmas Traditions
Before you dive into Colombian holiday foods, you have to understand the traditions. Christmas in every country means something different. It’s also celebrated in a way specific to their history.
1. When Does Christmas Start?
For Americans, Christmas celebrations start on the 24th for Christmas Eve. Each family may have their own traditions, but this is the general rule for timing.
In Colombia, Christmas celebrations begin on the seventh of the month.
The holiday begins with what they call Day of the Little Candle or Día de las Velitas. This celebration falls on the day before Immaculate Conception: when Mary conceived Jesus.
Day of the Little Candles is when people light paper lanterns or candles and displays them.
2. Is Santa Claus Part of the Tradition?
In a lot of cultures, Santa Claus is the face of Christmas. Parents remind children to be good because Santa Keeps tabs.
In Colombia, though, it isn’t the Jolly old man that brings presents to the girls and boys. In their version, Baby Jesus is the gracious one for whom they wait at night.
3. How Do They Wish Each Other Merry Christmas?
You’re likely more familiar with “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays.” But because Colombia is a Spanish speaking country, they don’t use the same sentiment.
Instead of “Merry Christmas” you’d say “Feliz Navidad!”
4. What Kind of Christmas Decorations Are There?
Christmas decorations vary in the U.S. and all over the world. Commercialized Christmas decorations are all over. As well as crafted decorations.
In Colombia, though, the most common decoration to see is the Nativity scene. This is because of the large religious influence in the Americas.
In Colombia, they reserve the nine days before Christmas for prayer. They gather around nativity scenes and sing songs, pray, and read the Bible. Much like some families in the U.S. will do on Christmas Eve.
Popular Colombian Food Ingredients
Before you can start cooking Colombian Christmas foods, you have to know the staples. What kind of ingredients are you sure to find in their most popular dishes?
Like most cultures, holiday foods will be full of ingredients that are local. That’s because most cultures were unable to import foods for every need. It’s always enlightening to see what traditional foods in specific areas of the world.
Corn is a staple of many Colombian food recipes. It’s one of the region’s top agricultural finds. On average, Colombia produces two million metric tons of corn a year.
It’s used in many ways. Namely in arepas, made from maize dough.
Like most countries, cheese has a place in the heart of Colombian food. Cheese fritters are popular foods here.
Some parts of Colombia are even touted as the best places for cheese production. This is because the conditions are right for the aging process.
Like corn and cheese, rice is something you’ll find often in Colombian dishes. It’s a hearty addition to any meal and served sweet or savory. Rice is a staple in many Latin dishes, so it makes sense that it would be in Colombian food as well.
Potatoes are hearty, heavy ingredients that add substance to meals. The starchiness is perfect for soups and added texture.
It’s also perfect because potatoes soak up flavors easy. This makes it simple to change the taste of each dish no matter the ingredients.
Traditional Savory Colombian Christmas Food
Everyone has their favorite Christmas foods. Some are from family traditions, while others are cultural staples.
Why not mix things up this year and incorporate a few staples from another country? Share some of these foods famous during the Colombian holidays with your friends.
Fried foods are something many countries and cultures have in common. There’s something about the crispy, flavorful texture that gets the stomach rumbling.
In Colombia, there’s one such dish that looks simple enough. But it’s a favorite dish for Christmas and is closely related to the fritter.
The Buñuelo is a small, round ball of dough that is fried. Sometimes they even have cheese in them. Is your mouth watering yet?
If you don’t like cheese in yours, you can even make it sweet. But no matter how you make it, you won’t be able to eat only one.
Common ingredients you’ll need for this dish are:
The recipe for this dish isn’t as complicated as it seems, either.
If you’re familiar with Latin culture, you likely know that tamales are universal. You’ll find these corn-based dishes in most Latin American cultures, and they’re diverse.
If you’re familiar with the Mexican version, you know they’re wrapped in corn-husks. But here’s where you’ll experience a new type of tamale. Colombians wrap theirs in plantain or banana leaves instead.
In Colombia, Christmas is the perfect time to eat tamales. You’ll find family and friends gathered in the kitchen to help make batches of this dish.
Tamales have many types of recipes. But some of the most popular types are:
Tamales Antioqueños (from Antioquia) with all pork products and filler vegetables.
Tamales Santafereños o Bogotános (from Santa Fe). They’re made with pork, chicken, potatoes, and other filler vegetables.
For a variation of these recipes you’ll need:
Tamales take patience and plenty of love. So gather your closest people around to help you not get tired of making this dish.
3. Ajiaco Soup
During the Christmas holiday, warm and cozy feelings are what we all chase. And your favorite soup may sound like a great idea. But remember, December in South America means summer time.
Most probably would avoid soup when the thermometer is pushing 85 degrees outside. Unless of course that soup is the Colombian classic, ajiaco!
Ajiaco is a traditional Colombian dish. It’s hearty and thick, with lots of rich flavors everyone is sure to enjoy. One of the reasons this soup is so common is because of its potato base. Potatoes are a large part of Colombia’s agriculture.
What you’ll need for this soup is:
- Corn cob
- Lots of potatoes
It’s a thick, stew-like soup. So don’t be afraid to pack it full of delicious ingredients.
What is it about pastry-like foods during the holidays? They’re so comforting and packed full of flavor, who can resist? One Christmas dish you can’t pass up is the empanada.
Yes, you can find these all over the place during non-holiday times. But why not wait until Christmas to enjoy these in a more festive setting?
The empanada is another form of the fritter. Only this one is full of other ingredients. You can stuff them full of beef, pork, or vegetables. And the best part? They’re handheld for easy eating while you visit with family.
Sweet Colombian Christmas Favorites
Sweets are a Christmas must-have. Chocolate, pastries, and pies are the most awaited part of the holiday meal.
Here are some of the most popular sweets in Colombian tradition. Your family and friends will wonder why they never branched out before now.
5. Rice Pudding
Rice pudding, or arroz con leche, has a place in almost every country’s culture. The reason is that rice is a popular staple. It comes in large quantities and feeds a large population with ease. It’s also easy to mix flavors with rice.
Rice can be savory or sweet. And when it comes to holiday foods, it’s always wise to go with sweet.
Rice pudding is a thick concoction that’s simple to make in large amounts. It doesn’t take a lot of ingredients, either. Milk, sugar, and rice are the main items you need to make this dessert.
It’s warm and filling. And by adding cinnamon or cardamom, you can add another comforting layer to the taste. Dry fruit or nuts also make a great addition to this Colombian Christmas pudding.
6. Torta Negra
Black cake is a literal translation of “Torta Negra.” This cake is one of those that is full of variety when finding recipes.
You make the cake portion of it the same way you do normal cakes: with flour and sugar. But the rest is an original mix of flavorful ingredients.
You can almost think of it as a different version of the fruit cake popular during Christmas. The reason is that it’s usually chock-full of mouth-watering fruits and ingredients. Raisins, plums, spices, wine, and much more are popular to pile into this cake.
What is Natilla? Natilla is a Colombian custard that is most popular during the holidays. In fact, you’ll likely find it everywhere during Christmas.
Is it sweet or savory? This is a traditionally-sweet custard paired with cinnamon in most cases. But you can also find natilla eaten with other traditional foods. And if you’re a fan of mixing sweet and salty, pair it with buñuelos.
Shredded coconut and cinnamon both go well with this dish.
Christmas cookies are one thing you’ll find in every household. People love cookies during the holidays and even put together baking parties. The bottom line: you can’t miss not to have cookies on your table during the holidays.
But sometimes sugar cookies get a little boring. If that’s the case for you, why not try something new?
Cocadas are a lot like cookies in their shape and consistency. And if you like coconut, you’ll love these traditional desserts.
Ingredients you’ll need:
- Shredded coconut
- Condensed milk
- Confectioners sugar
All these ingredients are easy to find in most grocery stores. And you can make these in balls, or you can flatter them to resemble cookies more. Or you can buy cocadas too!
One thing for sure is that Cocadas are truly loved by Colombians and for this reason they made our list of 11 Colombian Desserts To Treat Your Sweet Tooth.
9. Colombian Hot Chocolate
Cacao has a long history in Latin America. Historians believe as early as 400 B.C., people have eaten chocolate. It’s made its rounds all over the world, but still remains popular in Colombia.
Hot chocolate is something that Colombian’s enjoy all year. Almost the way we drink coffee in the morning, they’ll sometimes pair it with breakfast.
Though it might be a year-round drink, it’s better during the holidays. Why? Because it’s rich, spicy, and festive.
Hot chocolate is easy to make in large batches. But you can’t use store-bought mix for this traditional drink. Nor can you use cocoa from the box. No, if you’re going to do it justice, make it right.
First, you need to buy Colombian chocolate squares. If you like it sweet, don’t be shy. But the best way to make it is to keep it semi-sweet. Then, you’ll need the milk of your choice, sugar, and cinnamon.
Add it all to one pot to boil and you have the perfect drink for Christmas. Add nutmeg if you’re feeling extra festive. You can even drink this with your pudding or pastries.
Another warm pastry to try is hojuelas. Especially if you enjoy the flake of pastry dough filled with citrus fruit. This dish is perfect because it’s crispy and fried, but the orange juice gives it freshness.
This is a traditional Christmas dish, but can also be eaten at other times of the year.
- Orange Juice
What’s different about this recipe is that the orange juice is added to the dough. So, it’s like crispy chips with a citrus aftertaste. It’s something new your friends will enjoy trying this holiday season.
More Colombian Food
Colombian Christmas food might be a little different from the foods you had as a child.
But it’s the same in that it’s enjoyed by families gathering to celebrate together. Feliz Navidad!
Like to learn more about Colombia’s most popular dishes? Read 17 Best Colombian Food Dishes You Should Try Right Now.
Our blog is all about sharing our love of Latin American foods & drinks. We will bring you articles and recipes of the very best Latin American & Spanish cuisine. Amigofoods was founded in 2003 and is the largest online grocery store offering a wide variety of hard to find freshly imported foods & drinks from all over Latin America and Spain.