Colombian New Year

As part of the ongoing Colombians are crazy Series I thought I'd give you some "cultural" insight into how Colombians like to bring in the New Year. Unlike here, New Years is a huge family holiday in Colombia. If you are not with your loved ones on New Years it brings heavy waves of nostalgia of loneliness. Having spent most of my New Years' previous to life with Arnold with my parents falling asleep on the couch, I feel no attachment to the holiday. Suffice it to say we always spend New Years with Colombians, sometimes here and sometimes there. Last year we were in Lebrija for Colombia. Small town New Years means that you go to church ridiculously late at night. The church service will end exactly at 12 and as you come out to the central square there will be an insane amount of fireworks at close proximity. I usually spend this time clutching my mother-in-law in terror as the firework sticks shower around our heads. Despite the danger aspect, I find this fun. Next, we go home for dinner with the fam, this usually involves tamales and alcohol. Tamales in Colombia are not the petite Mexican kind, they are gigantic and filled with chicken on the bone, which is good, because after tamales and alcohol with the fam, you will go out and party (literally) in the street with the whole town until you can't stand up anymore. I usually last till about 2, my mother-in-law lasts until dawn.

This year is the off year, which means we have to substitute and party with our Colombian friends. I actually find this equally as fun. And where are the Colombians? That's right, they are at my alma mater, UC Davis. So we head over to Davis and we make a terrible mistake... we get there WAY TOO early. 9:30. The problem with bi-culturalism is that sometimes it's confusing, as a result Arnold and I tend to be constantly late for gringo events and constantly early for Colombian ones. When we get to the house it is full of drunk high school students dancing to salsa. At first I think this is kind of sweet, the salsa dancing, not the drunkenness. Of course then I realize that they are not so much dancing as freaking each other and that all the girls are behaving ridiculously sluttishly. It's like I am watching clones of Britney Spears. I realize why some parents prefer to hide their kids in the basement. I console myself with the thought that at least they are safe and not out drunk driving. Arnold, being used to the "declasse" behavior of high school students is mildly amused by the debauchery. I sit there and fight the urge to drag the girls into the bedroom and teach them about self-respect. But I digress...

All of our friends, the kind who are over 18, and wear clothes show up around 11. (See how big the miscalculation was. Frigging bi-culturalism!) This is when the party really starts. The young ones might have energy, but the real adults have experience. At this point you will hug, dance and repeat all night long. At 12, you will be served champagne. At the hour, everybody will start counting down... a bit bizarrely, they will count in English. I always get confused about the number and don't catch on until 5. Then everyone will kiss and hug. It will be like the "Sign of Peace" on steroids. Everybody will spill their champagne everywhere in an effort to hug and kiss everybody else. It won't matter anyways because the champagne is filled with confetti. The house is packed so Arnold and I just stand in the middle of the herd and kiss and hug whoever happens to pass us. And then.... you dance until you literally can't dance anymore. For me this usually happens around 2(see some things are the same in the U.S. and Colombia!)

I love to make fun of Colombians, but only because they are funny. No just kidding, I love to make fun of them because I love them so much. And I never love them more on New Years, because they make it into the holiday it should be. Not a pseudo Valentine's where the single-girls feel badly about not having someone to kiss but a day to celebrate with the people you love and to dance until you fall down.

Posted on January 1, 2008 and filed under Nothing to Do with Anything.