Vancouver’s Colombian community celebrates the Christmas season with its Fiesta de las Velitas which is a free event with food and live music in December.
In 2019 the event took place on Sunday, December 1st, between 3:00 and 7:00 pm. Unfortunately, the 2020 event was cancelled due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, and it doesn’t look like it happened in 2021 either. Hopefully it returns in 2022.
Colombian Christmas Party of Candles
The Fiesta de las Velitas is a traditional Colombian Christmas celebration which means “Party of Little Candles” in English. Día de Las Velitas, or Little Candles Day, takes place officially on December 7th in Colombia each year and in Vancouver the local community usually celebrates with a party on a weekend around that time.
In years that it happens, the Vancouver event is free to attend, open to the public and attracts around 800 people (most of whom are Colombian). If you like Latin music and want to try Colombian food and see how Latin Americans party, you should check it out.
Where and When
Vancouver’s Día de las Velitas is usually on a Saturday or Sunday in early December. In recent years it has been held at places like the Croatian Cultural Centre, Science World and Burnaby Hall.
In 2019 it took place in the gym at Our Lady of Mercy School at 7481 10th Avenue in Burnaby on Sunday, December 1st, from 3:00 until 7:00 pm.
What to Expect
In years without a pandemic, at Vancouver’s Fiesta de las Velitas event you can expect lots of Colombian food, Latin American music, and hundreds of local Colombians and their families having dinner together and enjoying the festive season.
At the event there is usually food for purchase, children’s activities and live bands playing Colombian music and other Latin American favourites. It’s an alcohol-free and family-friendly fiesta, so there is no cash bar, beer or other “adult” beverages.
In 2018, at the Burnaby Hall venue, food vendors had stalls in the main entrance lobby and the main hall was full of rows of tables for people to sit at and enjoy their dinners and conversation with friends. Live bands played on the stage and children’s activities took place downstairs. Some of the bands were Colombian, and others from other Latin American countries (like the Mariachis los Dorados from Mexico). The 2019 event at the Our Lady of Mercy School venue was similar.
About Little Candles Day
Little Candles Day is a national holiday that’s celebrated in Colombia on December 7th, which is the eve of the Immaculate Conception.
On December 7th, in Colombia, people put candles and paper lanterns all around their homes and other places in honor of the Virgin Mary. There are also major celebrations in communities throughout the country, including festivals with fireworks.
In Vancouver, Little Candles Day is typically celebrated with BC Place Stadium being lit up with the yellow, blue and red colours of the Colombian flag, plus the Fiesta de las Velitas party on a weekend in the late afternoon and early evening around that date for the local Colombian community (as well as anyone wanting to join them).
The Fiesta de las Velitas in Vancouver is a free event that’s put on most years by the Colombian Community of British Columbia.
Tips and Advice
Below are some tips and suggestions to help you make the most out of your Fiesta de las Velitas experience.
TIP # 1: People speak English at the event, but it’s also a great place to practice your Spanish!
TIP # 2: There is no need to register or sign up to attend. You can just show up.
TIP # 3: The place is busiest between 4:30 and 6:30 pm.
TIP # 4: Arrive near the start for the best chance of finding parking and a table for you, your family and friends. Also, if you arrive late, like after 7 o’clock, most of the food will already be gone!
TIP # 5: Go with an appetite and be sure to try the traditional Colombian foods. Some of the best menu items for sale when we went last time included the lechona (roasted pork), tamal (dough steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf), arepa de huevo (egg-stuffed corn cakes) and postres (desserts). The bandeja paisa was also delicious and consisted of beans, pork, rice, sausage, egg and various other ingredients.
TIP # 6: In addition to the food, go for the music. The bands are typically excellent (and authentically Latin).
For more information about the Fiesta de las Velitas event check out the Colombian Community of BC‘s Facebook page for the event (although the information will likely be in Spanish).
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver’s December Calendar
- Festivals & Events Calendar
- Best Christmas Activities
- Free December Events
- Vancouver on a Budget
- Lower Mainland History & Culture
- Latin American Restaurants
- Vancouver’s Columbian Independence Day Picnic