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Holidays in Colombia: Guide to Holidays and Long Weekend Breaks in Colombia

These are the holidays in Colombia: Typical Church in Colombia.

Updated on 03/04/2024

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In this blog, you’ll discover the significance of holidays in Colombia and the reasons behind the country’s numerous holidays.

What are holidays in Colombia, and how many are there?

Holidays in Colombia provide an opportunity to enjoy music, food, games, and family and community gatherings. These dates are primarily used to express religious faith and the cultural richness of the country.

Colombia generally observes 18 holidays per year, with 12 of them being of religious origin and 6 of civic origin.

These holidays are designated as days off for workers, allowing them to rest without salary deductions to commemorate historical or religious events. Holidays are classified into two types: fixed and movable dates.

  • Fixed dates: These holidays are celebrated on the same day every year, regardless of the day of the week. They correspond to specific historical events, such as Christmas or Independence Day.
  • Movable dates: These holidays shift to the next Monday if they fall on a Tuesday to Friday, as per the Emiliani Law. Therefore, the dates vary each year.

What is the Emiliani Law?

The Emiliani Law, a reform to Colombia’s labor code created by jurist and politician Raimundo Emiliani Román in 1983, transfers most national holidays to the nearest Monday. This connects a holiday with a full weekend (3 days in total), aiming to facilitate rest, promote tourism, and encourage family integration.

The Emiliani Law applies to both religious and civic holidays without fixed dates, covering approximately 10 out of the total 18 holidays.

Why does Colombia have many holidays?

Colombia boasts numerous holidays due to its rich history, cultural diversity, and, above all, the Catholic religious influence since the Spanish colonization. Many holidays are tied to significant dates in the Catholic calendar.

Regional celebrations, cultural events, and other major historical events in the country are also considered when determining holidays.

Due to the abundance of holidays, the school and work year is sometimes affected as the number of working days is reduced. This has sparked debates about the practicality of maintaining so many ‘non-working’ days.

What are the holidays in Colombia?

Now that you’re more familiar with the key concepts, it’s time to explore the holidays!

January 1: New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day is the first holiday of the year in Colombia. A notable practice is the New Year’s Eve dinner on December 31. Families gather to enjoy traditional dishes like tamales, lechona, and roasted turkey, accompanied by wine, champagne, or aguardiente.

Traditions include walking with a suitcase at midnight to attract adventures and travels during the year and eating 12 grapes to the rhythm of the bells, making a wish for each grape. The burning of the ‘Año Viejo’ (Old Year) is an ancient and fun tradition, creating a doll representing the negative aspects of the past year and setting it on fire. These traditions make New Year’s in Colombia an attractive celebration for tourists.

Origin of New Year’s

The origin of New Year’s in Colombia dates back to Roman times when cycles were closed with festivals to the gods Janus and Saturn. With the influence of the Catholic Church, the Gregorian calendar was adopted, establishing January 1 as the first day of the year. Spanish traditions, such as eating 12 grapes and burning an ‘Año Viejo’ doll, were later incorporated, resulting in a diverse and joyful celebration.

January: Epiphany

Epiphany is officially celebrated on January 6, marking the end of the Christmas season and the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem. However, the corresponding holiday is moved to the following Monday, according to the Emiliani Law.

For many people, Epiphany holds deeper religious significance. Special masses and religious services commemorate the Magi’s visit to baby Jesus, reflecting on its spiritual meaning.

As you may know, Epiphany in Colombia combines religious and cultural elements. It usually coincides with the end of the year’s holiday season for some companies, and most schools and universities remain on break, making it a peak travel season.

Origin of Epiphany

The origin of Epiphany dates back to the New Testament, where it is narrated that wise men from the East, guided by a star, arrived in Bethlehem to worship baby Jesus, bringing gifts. The tradition of being with family and exchanging gifts on this date originated in the 19th century in Spain, imitating the Magi’s gesture to Jesus, and later spread to Latin America with the arrival of Catholicism.

However, gift-giving on Epiphany is uncommon in Colombia, as the night of Christmas is the traditional gift-giving occasion when Jesus is born.

March 19: Saint Joseph’s Day

Saint Joseph’s Day is a religious celebration honoring Joseph, the husband of Mary and the earthly father of Jesus. He is considered the patron saint of the Catholic Church and a model of fatherhood, justice, and humility.

It is a non-working day when many religious activities take place, such as masses, processions, and novenas, seeking Saint Joseph’s protection for homes. Additionally, this date coincides with International Men’s Day on March 19, recognizing positive contributions of men to society.

It’s important to note that Saint Joseph’s Day and the corresponding holiday do not always fall on the same date. Saint Joseph is celebrated on March 19, while the holiday is observed on the Monday following March 19, a movable date that can vary between the third and fourth week of March.

Origin of Saint Joseph’s Day

The celebration of Saint Joseph’s Day is due to the influence of the Catholic Church, which brought European religious customs during the Spanish colonization. It is said that they revered Saint Joseph as the paternal figure of the family.

Celebrated since 1621, when Pope Sixtus introduced it to the Roman calendar.

On this day, International Men’s Day is also celebrated, originating in Trinidad and Tobago in 1999 but adopted in Colombia on March 19 to coincide with Saint Joseph’s Day.

March and April: Maundy Thursday and Good Friday

Maundy Thursday is a religious celebration that commemorates Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. On this holiday, Colombians often engage in activities like visiting churches, attending masses, or participating in processions.

Good Friday in Colombia marks the crucifixion and death of Jesus. It is a public holiday when people abstain from eating meat, and representations of the Stations of the Cross, the Descent from the Cross, and the Holy Sepulchre take place. Some of the most famous processions occur in Popayán, Mompox in Bolívar, and Pamplona in Santander.

These are significant days for Colombians, the majority of whom are Catholics, commemorating these days as part of Holy Week. Additionally, many schools and universities give the entire week off, while most companies usually have Thursday and Friday off.

This time is considered the peak tourist season, causing prices to rise and making it challenging to make reservations.

Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are celebrated annually, with exact dates varying each year based on the lunar calendar, typically falling between late March and April.

Origin of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday

The origin of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday dates back to the colonial era when the Spanish brought the Catholic religion. They commemorated both the Last Supper and the death of Jesus from the fourth to the fifth day of Holy Week. Starting from Maundy Thursday, the last days are known as the ‘Triduum Paschal’ and are the most important.

Since then, Colombians commemorate the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ with various religious and cultural activities during these dates.

May 1: Labor Day

Labor Day is celebrated on May 1 every year as an official fixed date, with historical significance for the global labor movement. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the achievements and struggles of the working class, demanding better working, social, and political conditions.

It’s a national holiday celebrated with marches supporting or opposing labor reforms. Labor union leaders also conduct demonstrations in favor of or against political candidates.

Additionally, it’s an expression of solidarity among workers from different sectors, regions, and organizations in the country.

Origin of Labor Day

The first Labor Day in Colombia took place in 1914, initiated by the Union Obrera de Colombia, which organized a peaceful demonstration in Bogotá.

The celebration aimed to show solidarity with the global labor movement that had begun on May 1, 1886, in Chicago, USA, with a general strike for an 8-hour workday.

Since then, this date has become an occasion to advocate for work conditions, fair wages, and social justice for Colombian workers.

May: Ascension Day

Ascension Day commemorates Jesus Christ’s ascent to heaven after his resurrection. It is celebrated 40 days after Easter Sunday, falling on a Thursday, but in Colombia, it is moved to the following Monday by the Emiliani Law.

It’s a day of reflection for Catholics, who commemorate through masses, church visits, and visits to iconic sanctuaries like the Sanctuary of Las Lajas. Primarily, it’s a public holiday that many use to rest and spend time with their families.

Origin of Ascension Day

The origin of Ascension Day traces back to the Catholic tradition of celebrating Jesus Christ’s ascent to heaven after his resurrection. This date is believed to be 40 days after Easter Sunday and was established as a Catholic feast by the 4th century AD.

June: Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (Sacred Heart of Jesus)

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is an annual celebration held on the Friday following the second Sunday of June, but it is moved to the following Monday by the Emiliani Law. During this festivity, the faithful attend masses and religious services dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Processions take place, featuring an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, accompanied by hymns, prayers, exhibitions, and folkloric parades in towns across the country.

Besides religious activities, many people use this day to renew their commitment to living in accordance with the values and teachings of Jesus Christ.

Origin of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The origin of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Day stems from the visions of Margarita María de Alcoque, a 17th-century French nun who managed to spread her visions to the world.

In Colombia, the celebration was adopted by the Archbishop of Bogotá, Monseñor Bernardo Herrera Restrepo, who requested that the country be consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1902, as an act of reconciliation after the Thousand Days’ War. This conflict occurred in Colombia between 1899 and 1902, involving two political factions and resulting in a significant loss of life.

June: Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi is a religious celebration honoring Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist, observed on the Thursday following the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, which occurs on the Sunday following Pentecost.

In Colombia, it is moved to the following Monday to create a long weekend. Various cities and towns host solemn processions through the main streets, carrying the Blessed Sacrament on an altar accompanied by music, chants, and prayers.

Streets are decorated with flowers, plants, and fruits arranged in figures alluding to the festivity.

Origin of Corpus Christi

The origin of Corpus Christi dates back to the 13th century when a Belgian nun named Juliana de Cornillon proposed celebrating a feast in honor of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

Pope Urban IV established this feast for the entire Latin Church in 1264. During the Spanish colonization, these religious traditions spread, and Corpus Christi became part of various regions in the country.

July: Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

The Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is a liturgical celebration in the Catholic religion, commemorating the death of two apostles who were killed on the same day. However, this holiday is moved to the following Monday according to the Emiliani Law, so it is usually celebrated in July.

Different regions of the country hold processions, masses, concerts, parades, and dances to honor Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

Some of the most prominent cultural events include the Folkloric Festival in Ibagué and the National Bambuco Pageant in Neiva. These events express the diversity and tradition of Colombia during these dates.

Origin of the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

The Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is rooted in the Catholic tradition of commemorating the life and martyrdom of the two most important apostles of Jesus Christ: Peter and Paul.

June 29 was established as the date of their celebration, as it is believed to be the day both were executed by order of Emperor Nero in 64 AD.

July 20: Independence Day

Independence Day commemorates the end of Spanish rule and the birth of the Republic of Colombia. Celebrated annually on July 20 as an official fixed date, it holds great historical significance for the Colombian people.

It’s an opportunity to recall the ideals and values of the heroes who fought for freedom, sovereignty, and democracy.

Independence Day is a national holiday, primarily celebrated in Bogotá with military parades, including infantry, navy, air force, and veteran parades, among the most significant. Concerts and tributes to national heroes through ceremonies and decorations also take place.

Currently, it is the most important civic day in the country.

August 7: Batalla de Boyacá (Battle of Boyacá)

The Battle of Boyacá is celebrated every August 7 as an official fixed date and a national civic day. This date marks the beginning of the consolidation of national independence and the recognition of Colombian identity.

Annually, it is commemorated with a military parade and a floral offering at the Boyacá Bridge, where a monument honors the independence heroes. Cultural and artistic acts, such as musical concerts, plays, and dances, as well as various educational activities across different cities, aim to foster national pride and a sense of belonging to the nation.

Origin of the Battle of Boyacá

The Battle of Boyacá originated when liberator Simón Bolívar defeated Spanish royalist forces on August 7, 1819. This battle was decisive for the independence of present-day Colombia, as well as Panama, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

Since then, August 7 has been commemorated as a patriotic date, celebrating both National Army Day and Flag Day.

August 15: Día de la Asunción (Assumption of Mary)

The Assumption of Mary is a feast commemorating the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken up to heaven in body and soul. In Colombia, this celebration is moved to the Monday following August 15 to create a long weekend.

On this day, Catholics attend masses and special services dedicated to the Virgin Mary, listening to sermons about her importance to their faith. Some processions and cultural events take place in different cities and towns, where an image of the Virgin is carried, and homage is paid through songs, flowers, and prayers.

In addition to religious traditions, many people take advantage of this day to rest and spend time with their families.

Origin of the Assumption of Mary

The origin of the Assumption of Mary dates back to the 4th century when a feast was celebrated in honor of Mary and her entry into paradise. In Spain, it has been celebrated since the 7th century, and with the arrival of the Spanish to America, it spread to the colonies, including New Granada, the territory comprising present-day Colombia.

Pope Pius XII defined this dogma on November 1, 1950, and since then, it has been celebrated on August 15 universally.

October 12: Día de la Raza (Day of the Race)

The Day of the Race is commemorated every October 12 but is moved to the following Monday to create a long weekend, according to the Emiliani Law. On this day, homage is paid to the indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and mestizo communities that make up the country, along with their artistic, folkloric, and gastronomic expressions.

Cultural events, such as music festivals, traditional dances, folkloric parades, among others, take place in major cities like Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Cúcuta, etc., highlighting the richness and diversity of Colombian identity.

It’s also a day to reflect on the historical legacy of Spanish colonization and its consequences for the indigenous peoples. It is a time to celebrate the diversity among the different ethnicities that form part of Colombia. Currently, there are more than 80 native Colombian indigenous groups preserving the existence of 67 different ancestral languages.

Origin of the Day of the Race

October 12 coincides with the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America in 1492.

However, in Colombia, this celebration does not reference Spanish colonization. Instead, the Day of the Race was adopted later as a national holiday in 1971, initiated by the Ibero-American Union, an organization seeking to strengthen ties between Spain and its former colonies.

November 1: All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day is an international religious festival commemorating all saints, known and unknown, who have reached heavenly glory. It is celebrated on November 1 each year.

On this day, Catholics attend masses, listen to sermons about the importance of faith, and visit the graves of their loved ones, bringing flowers, candles, and offering prayers.

In some regions of the country, there are traditions where children dress up as angels and ask for food in their neighborhoods. So, it’s a day that expresses love and respect for those who have departed from the earthly plane, in contrast to Halloween celebrated the previous day.

Origin of the Celebration of All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day originated in the 4th century when the Catholic Church dedicated a day to honor the martyrs who had died for their faith during the Roman Empire persecutions.

Pope Gregory IV later adopted November 1 as a universal date to celebrate All Saints’ Day in the year 835, as an alternative to the pagan celebration on October 31.

November 11: Independence Day of Cartagena

The Independence Day of Cartagena commemorates the autonomous declaration of the city from Spanish monarchy in 1811. It is celebrated on November 11 every year.

On this day, Cartagena and the country celebrate with cultural and artistic events, highlighting the historical significance of this date. Some events include the Caribbean Music Festival, Independence Parades, and the Reign of Independence, showcasing the diversity and richness of the country.

It is an essential date expressing pride and identity for both Cartageneros and all Colombians.

Origin of the celebration of the Independence Day of Cartagena

The Independence Day dates back to November 11, 1811, when the city declared itself free and sovereign from the Spanish crown after a popular movement led by the Gutiérrez de Piñeres brothers, Pedro Romero, and other patriots.

This was the first city in present-day Colombia to proclaim its absolute independence, and the second in South America after Caracas. Since then, the event is commemorated every year on the same date.

December 8: Feast of the Immaculate Conception

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated on December 8, marks Mary’s conception without original sin.

Colombians honor this with the Noche de las Velitas (Night of the Little Candles) on December 7, lighting candles, decorating with images of the Virgin, and enjoying typical December dishes like buñuelos and natilla.

It’s a family and friends gathering, extending beyond religious observance.

Origin of the celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception originates from 1854 when Pope Pius proclaimed the dogma of the Virgin Mary’s conception without original sin. In the same year, Catholic faithful lit candles in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, anticipating the papal announcement.

Since then, every December 7 is celebrated as the Night of the Little Candles, on the eve of December 8, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. This tradition, rooted in the Catholic Church, has become widely embraced in Colombia, marking it as one of the most popular international festivities in the country.

December 25: Christmas

December 25 is Christmas in Colombia, a crucial day in our Catholic tradition.

However, December 24, Christmas Eve, holds more significance for Colombians.

On this day, we attend Mass, pray the novena of aguinaldos, and enjoy a festive dinner with gift exchanges. Christmas Day involves family gatherings, with barbecues and meals featuring leftovers from the Christmas Eve dinner.

Origin of the celebration of Christmas Day

Christmas, rooted in the Christian belief of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, has evolved into a globally recognized celebration throughout history.

When the Spaniards arrived in America, they introduced customs like the nativity scene, the novena, and carols. These traditions blended with local customs in the conquered territories, shaping diverse Christmas celebrations in Colombia and across the continent.

More about Colombian culture


About Author



Hello! I'm Frank Spitzer, the founder and the heart behind Pelecanus, a specialized tour operator for Colombia travel. My journey in travel is vast and rich – I've explored over 60 countries, absorbing cultures, experiences, and stories along the way. Since 2017, I've been channeling this wealth of global experience into creating unforgettable travel experiences in Colombia. I'm recognized as a leading authority in Colombian tourism, with a deep-seated passion for sharing this beautiful country with the world. You can catch glimpses of my travel adventures and insights around Colombia on my YouTube channel. I'm also active on social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, where I share the vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of Colombia. For professional networking, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Join me on this incredible journey, and let's explore the wonders of Colombia together!

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