Lights on La Playa

Think of it as a mardi gras with Santa Claus and a nativity scene.

Lights 3The beginning of the streetMore lights

Colombia is a Catholic country and even those who are non-practicing get in on the festive action. It starts on December 1st and carries on until January 9th when the wise men supposedly arrived with the gifts. But the country doesn’t really settle down until towards the end of the month.

Being my usual bah-humbug self I was over it by December 2. Might have something to do with the firecrackers that went on until 04:00.

And so it is Christmas

The best way to describe the season is “loud.” There is the music from the bars where people spontaneously get up to dance salsa, the street performers and the drivers of chivas who beep their way down the street on full volume.

Avenida La Playa – the main festive street – is a block and a half from my apartment, so I get to listen to the parties, the concerts and the firecrackers whether or not I want to. Even so, it beats living in a quiet suburb in the boonies.

Fiestas (parties), family meals and getting together with friends abounds and the streets in our neighbourhood are packed with pedestrian traffic.

Spending time with Jorge and Alvaro.
Spending time with Jorge and Alvaro.

My friend Jorge Uribe, the painter.


Every street light on Avenida de La Playa has its very own three or four meter high decoration — see above. This year’s theme is best described as tacky, tacky, tacky.

On the Street

People, people, people everywhere – literally thousands – strolling up and down the avenue. They range in age from new born babies to grandparents in wheel chairs.

Often it is people who come in from the communes – read slums – to enjoy a bit of fun and frivolity.


The entrepreneurial system takes over and there is all sorts of food on offer, most of it deep-fried or cooked on grills.

CornBeer and sweetsVendor sellling candy

Inflatable toys

And vendors vie to sell toys to parents with children in tow.


In December the brightly painted chivas – open buses with wooden benches – come in from the country and take over the streets of Medellin They offer partying opportunities and a tour of the city lights. People hop on and off alone or in groups. The main objective seems to be to whoop it up.

Given that I could hear the blaring music and the revilers a block and a half away, I decided to skip the cultural experience.

Or as my friend Alvaro commented, “You would have lasted for about two blocks before you jumped off.”

Chivas 2Chivas 1


Fortunately, Sylvia –my mother-in-Medellin – has a bar and slow-food restaurant on the corner of Avenida La Playa. So when it all become a touch overwhelming – which takes about 20 minutes to half an hour – I retreat there.

J and Sylvia

Christmas, Ramadan, Khmer New Years are all theme and variation as near as I can tell. Or, as they say in The Kingdom, same-same, but different.

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