Christmas in Colombia, the Noche Buena, is a very special time for family and friends and it also big party time because they gather, share culinary dishes and celebrate with the beat of salsa, cumbia, merengue, vallenato and other music rhythms.
The celebration starts on December 7th , known as the Night of the Candles, evening of the religious feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Families gather to lit candles or lanterns in front of the houses and paving the way for the Virgin Mary to bless their homes. In Bogota, Medellin and Cali, among other cities, the streets lighting creates a festival of colors at night, with fireworks attracting visitors from all over the country and the world.
It is also time to pray the Novena de Aguinaldo. For nine days people gather around the manger and the Christmas tree to pray, sing carols, enjoy the joy of the holidays and share with children the message of the birth of Baby Jesus.
December 24th is a magical night. After the last day of the Novena, people share a Christmas dinner. The menu varies according to customs of the regions but some typical dishes are ajiaco, tamales, suckling pig, roast smoked pork and stuffed turkey as well as sweets including bread fruit, cookies, fruits, bunuelos and Natilla, the traditional custard.
Children love Christmas, most kids wait the arrival of midnight to open gifts received as a reward for good behavior. After midnight people exchange gifts, symbolizing affection, love and the importance of staying together in this time of love and peace. Gift giving strengthens ties and express love, gratitude, good wishes and solidarity.
New Year Eve ends the cycle of celebrations. Some people gather to be grateful for all opportunities received during the year and celebrate the beginning of the New Year.
2 cups of queso fresco (or white farmer’s cheese),
3 tbsps of cornstarch
1 ½ tbsps of brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Oil for frying
In a large bowl, pour cheese, cornstarch, sugar, salt, and egg, mix till well blended.
Using a tablespoon scoop a portion and using your hands shape into balls.
In a heavy pot, pour oil over medium high heat, when hot add few balls.
Buñuelos will sink to the bottom, rise and expand. Cook until golden brown (approximately for 4 minutes), turning them occasionally. Repeat the procedure with the all the mixture always frying few buñuelos at the time. Drain excessive oil over paper towels. Serve.