Anyone who has ever spent time in Colombia can tell you that two of Colombians’ favorite things are street food and Christmas - not necessarily in that order. Munching on treats from street food vendors while enjoying the elaborate displays of Christmas lights is a much-loved pastime for most Colombian families. Medellín is the ideal city to take advantage of this tradition, considering it is the City of Eternal Spring and the fact that they take light displays to a whole new level! The local utility company, EPM, has generously adorned the city with Christmas lights for the past 61 years. Over the years, the displays have become increasingly more intricate and impressive, making it a holiday destination for local and international tourists alike. The alumbrados attracts over 4 million visitors during just five short weeks!
Strolling through the complex display of 31 million LED lights works up quite an appetite, which is why street food vendors happily set up stands along the way to feed the hungry masses. You can find a large range of traditional Colombian street food, typical Christmas snacks and sweet treats anywhere you look.
One favorite Colombian street food is simple, yet delicious - grilled corn or mazorca. We’ve all seen corn on the cob, but not like this! The grandiose kernels are roasted to perfection over an open charcoal flame and slathered with fresh butter and salt for a finishing touch. Corn is a staple of Colombian cuisine and is normally made into masa to create another favorite - arepas. The roasted corn is a nice alternative for a way to enjoy this fresh corn treat.
Buñuelos are a classic street food snack throughout Colombia, but come Christmas time you will almost always see it paired with natilla. The consistency can range anywhere between custard and flan and usually has a vanilla or arequipe flavor. You can’t spend a December in Colombia without encountering natilla, as it is the absolute essential holiday dish. There are variations of natilla depending on what region of Colombia you are in, but of course, everyone’s Grandma makes THE best version of it.
For a sweet street food snack, hojuelas will hit the spot. This dessert has its origins in Spain, but Antioquia and Medellín has adopted it as a holiday favorite.
Under the glow of holiday lights, you will find street food vendors frying up their version of a Colombian funnel cake to serve to the many people waiting in line to get a warm, crispy treat, dusted with sugar like a fresh layer of snow with a hint of orange flavor. Hojuelas are a favored holiday nibble in the neighborhood of Envigado, where we conduct our Medellín Street Food Tour.
After taking in all of the Medellín Christmas lights, you’ll definitely work up a thirst. Canelazo is the perfect drink to wash down all of the street food treats. Canelazo is Colombia’s answer to spiked apple cider, and it's delicious! Made with cinnamon, aguapanela (water and unrefined sugar), aguardiente (Colombia’s national drink), and a squeeze of lime to finish it off, it will definitely warm you up. Some street food vendors may even add more festive flavors with spices and herbs, like nutmeg, cloves or fresh mint. In December, the streets of Medellín are filled with vendors offering canelazo to passersby to sip as they enjoy the holiday displays. It is also fairly easy to make, for those looking to create holiday cocktails at home.