The people of Colombia who celebrate Christmas in February and with a black Child God
The inhabitants of the town of Quinamayó, department of Valle del Cauca, on the Pacific coast of Colombia, celebrate Christmas in February with a procession that includes a doll of a black Child God.
Afro-descendant locals say the tradition dates back to the days of slavery, when their ancestors were prohibited from commemorating Christmas on December 24. They chose a date in mid-February - the third Saturday of the month - a tradition that has been preserved ever since.
The celebrations are carried out with theatricality, colorful costumes, fireworks, music and dance.
"The people who enslaved us celebrated in December and we were not allowed to have that day off, but they told us to choose another," said the event coordinator Holmes Larrahondo.
"In our community we believe that a woman should fast for 45 days after giving birth, so we celebrate Christmas not in December but in February, so that Maria can dance with us," added Larrahondo.
Balmores Viáfara, a 54-year-old teacher, told the newspaper El Colombiano that, as a result, December 24 for him is "like any other day," while the Adorations of the Child God, as the celebrations are known, are "a party "in which" we blacks celebrate by worshiping our God, in our own way. " They combine Catholic beliefs, the fruit of evangelization, with other forms of expression and ritual that slaves brought from Africa. They are "celebrations of resistance," Viáfara told El Colombiano.
As part of the celebrations, the locals go from house to house in pilgrimage "in search" of the Child God -which is represented by a wooden doll- singing and dancing. Once the statue is found, it is carried in a procession throughout the town by participants of all ages dressed as angels and soldiers, who finally place it in the manger. Dancers perform a dance called la fuga, in which the dragged steps of chained slaves are imitated.
The festivities - which include recitations known as loas, dancing and drinking - continue until the wee hours of the morning.
During the rest of the year, the Niño Dios doll is in custody in the house of one of the villagers. That responsibility falls on Mirna Rodríguez, a 55-year-old midwife, who inherited the task from her deceased mother of keeping the doll in perfect condition.
"We use children in the event since they are small. The angels, the soldiers, the godmothers, the godfathers, they are all children, so I think the tradition will never end," Rodríguez told the newspaper El Colombiano.