I had originally assigned this article to someone else but decided I wanted to make it a little more personal this year. I got some much needed help from a few of my Facebook friends, and I am very grateful for their generosity.
I distinctly remember my first Medellin Christmas in 2010, since it was also my first Christmas, spent outside the United States. I had no idea what to expect, because I had only been in Medellin a few months, so you can imagine the culture shock I was experiencing. I remember seeing the lights go up and I was intrigued they were lights depicting birds, animals, flowers and many things I had never associated with Christmas. I was used to Santa, Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and of course Christian themed decorations such as the Nativity Scene. Combine that with a climate that felt like the third week of May in my home state of West Virginia, and you can understand why I was not feeling in the Christmas spirit. I was also a little home sick and in need of some freezing temperatures and snow.
Christmas is Unique in Medellin
The city of Medellin, Colombia, lights up with an amazing display of Christmas lights every year, the likes of which are not found anywhere else in the world. The entire city gets involved in the festivities around Christmastime, with every area and Barrio, coming alive with beautiful displays. I was still looking for some things to do in Medellin and that holiday season, I took my first walk along the River to put me in the Christmas spirit.
Lights By the River
The Medellin River is the main attraction come Christmastime in the city, as literally millions of dollars are spent every year adorning it with a festive display. Each year there is a different theme chosen and it’s always full of color and style. Millions of visitors go by the river to see the displays, which are also strung along public roadways and parks. To enjoy the full view of the Christmas lights, start from the Parque de los pies descalzos and then travel along to the Rio Medellin.
Cerro Nutibara – Pueblito Paisa also offers a great view of the city.
The entire city itself becomes something of a Christmas tourist attraction, with vendors selling foods candies, toys and a variety of other things. Street performers who appear each year showing off their unique talents. It’s estimated that there are some 500 street performers who show up along the river and the roadways, so there is always something to see in Medellin!
Enjoy this video by Jim Ryan Roy.
Along with the lights there are many other activities that are planned for families and which span the entire month. So no matter when you visit Medellin you will find something exciting to do.
Medellin has some other Christmas traditions and depending on your perspective, can seem very different than normal holiday activities. The Fireworks! Fireworks are not common for Christmastime in some countries so if you’re not used to such festivities around the holidays, it’s good to know what to expect. The Medellin Fireworks will last the entire month of December and into January with many of them (most I think), being setoff by non professionals. Some are very beautiful and light of the Medellin sky like the 4th of July in the USA. Others however can be annoying to say the least, with loud blasts lasting into the wi hours of the morning. I can recall hearing homemade bombs going off well after daylight, greeting me in the morning just as they did as I attempted to sleep the night before.
There is displays in every Barrio and Parque surrounding Medellin. Here are a few taken at Parque Sabaneta by friend Chuck Howard
If you’re visiting Medellin to see the Christmas lights, you would do well to observe some precautions.
It’s good to understand how crowded the city can be when the lights are displayed. Strolling along the city streets of Medellin is still dangerous. There have been recent robberies by street and motorcycle bandits and although it is rare, it pays to be on guard.
Medellin is Special
Christmas around the world is celebrated in so many different ways, but it can be said, Medellin is in a class by itself. Maybe it is just the sheer volume of the celebration or the amount of the population participating, but no one can deny, the people of Medellin, sure do love Christmas.