Friday, January 01, 2010
One Family's Journey: Colombian New Year
When we found out that we would be in Colombia over New Year's we originally planned to travel to Lebrija, Santander to spend time with Arnold's family. However after our 2nd day with Elian it became kind of clear to us that it wasn't a good idea. Adoption is a hard transition for a toddler and we didn't want to change his schedules and surroundings so quickly. Also it is INSANELY loud and raucous in sleepy little Lebrija during New Year. At a Christmas Novena Elian covered his ears and sobbed because people were singing too loud which kind of sealed the change in plans.
However... celebrating New Years in small town Colombia is superfun. If you ever have a chance, please GO FOR IT! This is what my family does:
First I like to sleep as much as I can all day because it's gonna be a long night. Even though it's not New Years yet there will be all sort of festive pre-partying with random fireworks and very loud music. That night you'll get dressed up in you best party clothes and have dinner with your family. We always have tamales. Then we go to the midnight mass at the church in the central plaza. The mass is long and I never know what the priest is talking about because there is too much echo in the church but I think it's a nice way to ring in the New Year despite the technical difficulties. The mass will end at exactly 12 and as you exit the church you will be assaulted by the most ridiculously dangerous, beautiful and fun fireworks show you've ever seen. The ash and sticks from the fireworks will literally be falling on your head and into the crowd. If you are like me you will be torn between trying to watch the show that is directly above your head and clinging to your mother-in-law in fear. At the same time that the fireworks show is starting the church bells will ring and the traditional New Years song "Quince pa'las doce" will play. It is the Auld Lang Syne of Colombia and is very nostalgic. I've seen Colombians in the US weep hearing the song on New Years eve. At some point the big fireworks show will be over but fireworks in general will continue ALL NIGHT LONG. At 7 am in the morning when the sun has already risen you will idly wonder why people are still shooting off fireworks but you will be too tired to really care.
Anyways after the fireworks show you will go back to hang out with your family a bit. And then it's time to go hit the street. In Lebrija there is a street party that's hosted by a local business. They set up speakers that are six feet tall and there is a dance party that stretches two city blocks. It's really, really fun.
I am very lightweight so I always end up giving up around 2 am. My mother-in-law keeps the party going until the sun rises. She is coming home around the time I am wondering why people would shoot off fireworks at 7 am. Also, people like to wear yellow underwear for New Years eve. I believe this is supposed to be lucky.
So that's what New Years is like in Lebrija, Santander. Unfortunately we will be missing out on the fun yet again but I won't be missing out on dealing with a toddler whose partied out from New Years fireworks!