Photo Credit: Luis ROBAYO
Why Afro-Colombians Celebrate Christmas On February 16 In This Small Town
In the Western world, Christmas is celebrated in December, but in Quinamayó— a small town located in the Colombian Pacific region— Afro-Colombians celebrate the holiday in mid-February.
The celebration, which dates back 150 years ago, hits this city with a colorful procession through the town in which people carry a doll of a Black baby Jesus in a manger. The doll is followed by singers, children wearing angel costumes and ‘soldiers’ who “protect the newborn Black God during the parade so that it arrives safe and sound,” event coordinator Holmes Larrahondo told EFE.
He explained that Colombians did not allow enslaved Afro-Colombians to celebrate Christmas with them on December 25th.
“They gave us any other day of the month, so we decided on the date after the 45 days that Mary can dance with us,” he explained.
During the festivities, followers perform the traditional ‘fuga,’ an Afro-Colombian dance which was created during slavery in Colombia to pay homage to the Child God. Fuga performances emulate the movement of enslaved Black people, who had to shuffle their feet because “they did not have much freedom” to move around the streets.
The ‘Star of the East’ is another important symbol in the religious party, which guides followers to where the Child was born.
After that, the crowd lights torches, burns gunpowder, and carries the baby Jesus to the town’s central square, where the party reaches its climax in a celebration that lasts until dawn.
For Daniela Viáfara, one of the current organizers of the event, this Afro-Colombian Christmas is very authentic because it highlights the Black identity of the community.
For Viáfara it is important to protect this tradition because it represents their “rebirth” as blacks.
“It is an identity that has not been lost,” she told Efe. “We are the ones who make this festival happen. We want to preserve this tradition.”