Although I was in Colombia for Christmas, unfortunately, we didn't have anything organized with my husband's family ahead of time so I can't really report on exactly what Christmas is like there. Maybe, I can save that post for next year. What I can describe first hand is some of the traditions that have to do with New Years.
Growing up on the East Coast, many of my New Years revolved around watching Dick Clark and Times Square on television. Usually, it was very cold so most celebrations were indoors. Only once did I do Boston First Night which included a parade and ice sculptures. As a teenager, I spent some of my New Years babysitting because the parents were invited to a party and they needed someone to watch the children. I rang in the New Year by myself because the kids were in bed. I was sad celebrating New Years alone especially when I would see all the people kissing and hugging each other in Times Square looking like they were so happy. I remember thinking that I couldn't wait to be older so I could celebrate it with others.
When I got older, New Years was a hit or miss. I remember working as a waitress the night it changed from 1999 to 2000. I remember wondering if the predictions of Y2K were going to come true. (Luckily, it was uneventful although my Dad and I did have a backup plan just in case.) Other times, I would be with my parents who I'd have to wake up because they were too tired to make it to midnight. However, I was with friends a few time, and three years ago, my sister and I decided to go out to a fancy restaurant because neither of us wanted to be at home watching the ball drop on tv.
Last year, when I spent my first New Years outside the US, I realized how different other cultures view this day. For Colombians, it is just as important as Christmas or any other holiday. Everyone travels to be with family since family is so important to the Latin culture.
There is a lot of traditions associated with this day because how you celebrate determines how well the year will go for you. The first is dressing up nice to "receive the New Year". You don't want to receive the New Year in nothing but your best. The family I was celebrating New Years with decided to dress all in white with the men wearing the traditional guayaberas which are the white linens worn in the tropics.
The next thing you will probably see in Colombia are the Año Viejo dolls. Last year, I saw on being paraded around on a truck. I also saw one made in the likeness of a street vendor. (Didn't get a picture of that one.) Then, I saw someone with a miniature sized doll. When the clock stroked midnight, she burned the doll. The burning is symbolic because it means you have a fresh start. By leaving the old you behind, you can have a new version of yourself. Sometimes the Año Viejo is stuffed with paper that has the person's hopes for the New Year.
Another interesting tradition is grabbing your suitcase and walking around the house (or pool in our case) to ensure that our New Year is filled with lots of traveling. It's a fun one to do.
After, we sat around eating grapes. You are supposed to eat twelve of them which symbolize each month of the year. In the picture, below you can see the grapes being sold along side wheat which symbolizes abundance for the New Year.
Another thing that surprised me was that children were allowed to stay up late. Actually, it is encouraged since the children are part of the family, too. Although it doesn't mean that the children will actually make it. After a full day of swimming, my nephew just didn't have it in him to stay up.
I said to my husband that I love the Colombian traditions. They make me happy to be alive because I'm surrounded by people who find joy in the little things in life.
So far, 2013 looks to be a promising year. My hope is that I can take my family down to Colombia this year. The first time any of them have gone to a South American country. Plus, I will be happy to go during the summer when I have more time off to visit. Also, I have booked a trip to go to Peru to see the famous Machu Picchu. I have been dreaming of Machu Picchu since I was 15 years old. A truly once in a lifetime experience. I can't wait for 2013!