In the Western world, Christmas is celebrated in December, but in Quinamayó, a town located in the Colombian Pacific region, the largely Afro-Colombians celebrate the holiday in mid-February.

An Afro-Colombian girl in an angel costume takes part in the "Adoraciones al Nino Dios" celebrations in Quinamayo, department of Valle del Cauca, Colombia, on February 18, 2018.

 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,’ which imitates the movements of their enslaved ancestors. The celebration goes into the early morning.  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.

Afro-Colombians dance "Fuga" (Traditional dance) during the "Adoraciones al Nino Dios" celebrations, in Quinamayo, department of Valle del Cauca, Colombia, on February 18, 2018.
Afro-Colombians dance “Fuga” (Traditional dance) during the “Adoraciones al Nino Dios” celebrations, in Quinamayo, department of Valle del Cauca, Colombia

The ‘Star of the East’ is another important symbol in the religious party, which guides followers to where the Child was born.

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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.Afro-Colombian children in costumes take part in the "Adoraciones al Nino Dios" celebrations in Quinamayo, department of Valle del Cauca, Colombia, on February 18, 2018.

“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.”

Quinamayo, like other Black communities in Valle del Cauca that celebrate the Adorations, became established as a town on the edges of old haciendas after the abolition of slavery in 1852.

The Afro-Colombian community, which makes up 20 percent of the population, has suffered exclusion and poverty throughout its history.

“For some black communities (the Adorations) have increasingly become an element of resistance,” said Manuel Sevilla, an anthropologist at Cali’s Javeriana University.

He said the Adorations “are a combination of Catholic beliefs and the fruit of evangelization, with rituals coming from Africa.”

“It’s not just a spiritual celebration, but a sort of cultural banner, which is gaining strength,” said Sevilla.

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