In Medellin, Colombia, decorating for Christmas is a traditional city event that has grown over the years. The time, energy and budget have all increased accordingly, until it is now a major international event attracting 100s of thousands of people over the course of the Holiday season. The lighting event itself is a huge city party for the estimated 50,000 people attending, an amount that only increases as fireworks, parades and cultural programs are scheduled to fill the four weeks of the Christmas Season.
If ever there was an event to get you in the Christmas Spirit, this is it!
The opening event begins with a “dancing fountain” extravaganza, lighted with colorful strobe lights and images projected on the colored spray. In the background popular and traditional music played, first as recordings, and then as a live orchestra made up of all the young student musicians of the region. This is truly a community event staged for the world to see.
Following the light and water show, hundreds of people boarded special buses, called Chivas. They are the typical Colombian ladder buses, with rooftop seating, that used to be the public transportation throughout the Andean region. Now that modern buses are in operation, these relics of the past are trotted out for special occasions such as this. Multicolored, personalized and all tricked out to the owners taste (think loud and funky, predominantly yellow, blue and red, the colors of the Colombian national flag.) They transported us through the city to see the decorations, which were everywhere! Medellin is a city united in its celebration of Christmas. Displays, from simple to over-the-top, where visible hanging from rooftops, the balconies and ledges of the hi-rise buildings, and standing in every front yard. From corporate headquarters to private residences, the city is aglow in Christmas lights.
The largest Municipal Corporation in Latin America, EPM, is headquartered in Medellin. EMP is the group of corporations that provides the water, electricity and oil (& gas) for all of Colombia. The light show was projected on their fountains. The river across the street from their building was lined with massive lighting displays, and major Christmas constructions. Thousands of local people spent months building and preparing for this event. (EPM personally hires 250 full-time people, primarily female heads-of-households, to work on this project.) As a comparison, only the scale and scope of Mardi Gras in Rio de Janeiro or New Orleans is similar to Medellin’s Christmas Lighting event. It is that big!
The Nativity was a popular theme, primarily because the organizers wanted to return to the true ‘meaning of Christmas’. 15 million low-watt light bulbs and hundreds of miles of tinsel, ribbons, cables, wires, and light tubes tell the story of Christmas in the most colorful and traditional ways, with more nativities of every size and description than ever collected in one place. They were everywhere; even more prevalent than Christmas trees! If ever there was an event to put me in the Christmas Spirit, this was it! If you need such an infusion of good will, from the religious to the secular, get to Medellin before Jan 6th to experience the Joy and true meaning of Christmas.
To get there: American Airlines has direct flights from New York, and connecting flights from everywhere in the US through Miami.
Stay: Intercontinental Hotel Medellin – with over 150 hotels in 65 countries, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts are the premier place to stay. In Medellin, after 40 million dollars of complete renovations, the Intercontinental was my choice of where to lay my head.
Hotel Poblado Plaza – Located in the heart of the most exclusive area of Medellin, the Golden Mile of El Poblado neighborhood. This is where the main business and financial corporations of the city meet the shopping malls and restaurants. Or their ‘sister’ resort: Hotel Poblado Alejandria, located nearby.