Night of the Little Candles, Part IPosted: December 5, 2013
Last night the kids’ school celebrated Noche de las Velitas. The night of the little candles is a Colombian tradition that involves lighting candles and paper lanterns in celebration of the Immaculate Conception. For Andrew and me it was an exercise in helicopter parenting, and an opportunity to marvel at the differences in Colombian and North American culture. Several hundred kids ran around the school in a jacked-up cotton candy fervor with fire and giant balls of wax. Under wooden awnings. I tried to be cool and let my 4-year-old play with fire and drip hot wax all over himself, while at the same time radiating the warmth and serenity that showed that I, too, was excited about the Immaculate Conception.
But really, it went something like this:
Andrew: What is this all about?
Me: I think it has something to do with Mary. And the Immaculate Conception. And making wishes for people.
Andrew: That doesn’t make any sense.
Me: Just tellin’ you what I know.
Andrew: This is crazy. Who’s going to clean up this mess? Should we just leave all these candles burning? This is so dangerous.
Me: Be cool, Andrew, be cool.
Andrew noted at least a half a dozen safety violations; he mentioned something about overloaded electrical outlets, hot plates, aerosol spray cans. But this happens every year, so obviously they know what they’re doing. The school’s celebration was just a warm up to the actual Dia de las Velitas, which takes place this Saturday. I’m feeling a little more prepared now that we know what it’s all about. Wikipedia told us the following: the day of the candles, which was made an official holiday by the Colombian Catholic church, dates back to December 8th, 1854 when the Pope defined as dogma the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. People lit candles and paper lanterns to show their support in anticipation of the decision. So, now you know. Wikipedia also told me that some places, particularly in the paisa region (where we are), the night of the little candles is celebrated several nights earlier and derives from the Hanukkah tradition, because a large number of Paisas are of Jewish descent.
Stay tuned for Part II, when we find out what happens when the whole city celebrates, and the Christmas season officially begins…