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A Colombian Christmas in New Jersey

Well, I could tell you about my trip to Washington DC, New York or Atlantic City. I could also describe all the amazing things I saw there like interesting museums, historical monuments, big parks, and stunning skyscrapers. However, if there’s something I really like about the USA it’s the possibility of finding cultures from all over the world in one place. That’s why I was happily surprised at celebrating a Colombian Christmas in the middle of New Jersey.

After taking a train from Washington, DC, I arrived to Linden (New Jersey) to celebrate Christmas with some Colombian friends. Although my friends have lived in the US for decades and some of them were born here, they still conserve and live intensely their Colombian traditions. Christmas is the biggest celebration of the year in our country; it is not only about gifts, but about sharing time with our loved ones. Our Christmas started on December 16th, nine days before the birth of Jesus according to the Catholic celebration. Each night, we gathered in a different house to pray together “la novena” and enjoy Colombian food like “buñuelos” or cheesy fritters, and “empanadas” which are fried dough stuffed with potatoes and meat or grilled meats. On the 24th of December or “Nochebuena”, we prepared a special dinner which included ham, salad, rice with vegetables, and “natilla” a Colombian dessert we make with cinnamon, corn starch, milk, “panela” a hard sweetener from sugar cane, and cloves. At midnight all children received presents delivered by baby Jesus. We danced all night long, and drank rum and the famous “aguardiente”, an anise drink that is pretty powerful. It was truly a Colombian celebration except for the weather which is much warmer in our country during this time of the year.

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