December 7th was El Dia de Las Velitas (Day of the Candles), also known as the day before the Day of the Immaculate Conception also known as a celebration of the Virgin Mary was a big deal here in Colombia. Families and friends get together, light candles to welcome the Virgin Mary into their homes and hearts, and then they celebrate.
We thought that it would be a family-oriented spiritual holiday but in our conjunto, it was a raucous bash which reminded me more of a college party than a spiritual honoring. There were actually two parties in our conjunto, both outdoors. Sure, many neighbors lit candles in front of their houses and the kids seemed to really enjoy this activity, but the focus seemed to be on the parties afterwards.
In one party, neighbors got together and hired a band, pulled out all of their lawn furniture, and danced and partied until 3 am. At another, somebody pulled out their loud speakers and bottles of whiskey and aguardiente (Colombia’s national drink, a hard liquor which tastes like licorice) and the rest is history.
I actually really enjoyed the parties, in part because I tend to enjoy parties, but also because it gave me a chance to meet some neighbors (even another family whose kids don’t watch TV!) and feel like a part of things here.