The Tablet Jr. > December 2021

By Valeria Calvo, Grade 7

Valeria CalvoThe Novena has been around even centuries, in Colombia and some parts of Ecuador and Venezuela. The Novena is a tradition in which people read a set of prayers for nine consecutive days to honor the coming of Jesus into the world. Colombians recite the prayer at least once a day, usually gathering together in the evenings for it.

The practice of reciting novenas started sometime within the eighteenth century. Father Charlies Vachetta was a pastor in Turin, Italy, for the Church of Immaculate who wanted to give his parishioners something unique to have, so he decided to write a nine-day prayer which is now called the Novena so that people could prepare themselves for the coming of Jesus on Christmas. The Novenas started in Italy and spread throughout Europe and into South America in countries such as  Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. The website says, “The Christmas novena, as it is now known, begins on December 16, nine days before Christmas, and ends on Christmas Eve.” 

At the end of each day of the Novena, a feast usually happens where food is abundant, but what family members enjoy most from the feast are the buñuelos, balls of cassava flour, and cornstarch, a kind of street food in Colombia. Buñuelos are amazing to eat when one is cold because they are delicious with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Natilla is another type of food common at celebrations of Novena. It is a custard dessertt. It is made from panela,  cane sugar, cinnamon, or arequipe, a caramel paste. 

Novenas are a family tradition in which families come together to pray for paving the way for the coming of the Christ child on December 25th. When it’s time to say the Novena, families come together in a circle and someone says a prayer in a book or more than one person says several prayers, depending on how the family does their Novenas. Laura Mejia says, “ We sing the Villancicos songs with our family; everytime Colombians gather to pray, they go to another person’s house each day and they have buñuelos and natilla.” 

Novenas are not only about prayer and eating delicious foods, but dancing together is another exciting part of the night and the thing that brings these nine days such happiness for family and friends.

The practice of participating in a Novena is a family tradition in which family, loved ones, and friends come together and have a joyous time. Novenas make Christmas very special in Colombia.