Colombia has more public holidays than in the U.S. or countries in Europe. Colombia currently has 18 public holidays and 12 of these are Catholic holidays. Furthermore, Colombia holidays are known as festivos.
Reportedly only two countries in the world have more public holidays than Colombia – Sri Lanka and India – according to WorldAtlas.
Once you have lived in Colombia for a while you get used to there being a lot of holidays each year in Colombia. In addition, many readers of the Medellin Guru website have asked for details about the Colombia holidays. So, we are providing this up-to-date guide to all the public Colombia holidays.
Also, I previously included Colombia having more holidays than the U.S. as one of 27 Reasons I Chose to Live in Medellín.
Note: this popular article about Colombia holidays has been updated with the 2020 dates for all the Colombia holidays. Also, the above photo is courtesy of 123FreeVectors.com.
Colombia Holidays: The Official Holidays in 2020
Many of the dates for holidays in Colombia fluctuate from year to year. For many Colombia holidays, if they fall on a weekend or in the middle of the week, the holiday date is moved to the following Monday. So, 11 of the 18 holidays in Colombia in 2020 are on a Monday.
This is known as Emiliani’s Law in Colombia, which was enacted on December 6, 1983 as Law 51. This law requires that most holidays are moved to the following Monday. However, Colombia holiday dates associated with Easter, the Immaculate Conception and Christmas are never changed.
In addition, only two months in 2020 – February and September – have no national public Colombia holidays.
Here is a list of all 18 of the official national public Colombia holidays and the dates in 2020 for these holidays.
Colombia Holidays #1. January 1 – Wednesday: New Year’s Day (Año Nuevo)
New Year’s Day is January 1st, the first day of the year. Most noteworthy, New Year’s Day is reportedly the most widely observed public holiday in the world.
All countries except for Israel that use the Gregorian calendar celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1st. Countries that use the Julian Calendar tend to observe New Year’s Day on January 14th.
This holiday is traditionally celebrated with fireworks displays at midnight in the 31st in the local time zones. In Colombia, you’ll see fireworks displays in many cities in pueblos. And it’s very typical that you will hear fireworks early into the morning in many neighborhoods.
Colombia Holidays #2. January 6 – Monday: Epiphany (Día de Los Reyes Magos)
Epiphany is one of the major religious celebrations in Colombia along with Easter and Christmas. This holiday commemorates the presentation of the infant Jesus to the three wise men.
This holiday is normally celebrated on January 6. If the date is on a weekend like in 2019, it the will be moved in Colombia to a Monday.
In Colombia, some keep their Christmas trees up until this date to celebrate. The period between Christmas Day and Epiphany is known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Colombia Holidays #3. March 23 – Monday: Saint Joseph’s Day (Día de San José)
Saint Joseph’s Day is a holiday that celebrates the Virgin Mary’s husband and the adoptive legal father of Jesus Christ. This is scheduled on March 25, the first Monday after the 19th.
Saint Joseph is the patron saint of the Catholic Church, unborn children, fathers, immigrants and workers. Also, this is a popular day for attending mass in the beautiful churches in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley.
Colombia Holidays #4. April 9 – Thursday: Maundy Thursday (Jueves Santo)
Maundy Thursday is a religious Holy day that is observed all over the world. It was established to commemorate the foot washing (Maundy) and the last supper of Jesus Christ with his Apostles. In addition, this holiday occurs the day before Good Friday.
This holiday combined with Good Friday on April 10 are part of the holy week or Semana Santa in Colombia, which commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus as told by the New Testament.
It should be noted that many in Colombia take this entire Semana Santa week off. While only two of these days are considered national public holidays and two days are on the weekend, it has become traditional for many smaller businesses in Colombia to close for this entire week.
Schools are also closed during this week. But banks and government offices only close on the two public holidays during this week on Thursday and Friday. And the malls are open this week as well as most grocery stores and many restaurants.
All over Colombia, cities, towns, family and people celebrate and recognize Holy Week in a variety of different ways and levels of intensity.
Semana Santa in 2020 in Colombia is considered to be from Sunday, April 5 to Saturday, April 11. We have a separate guide to Semana Santa in Colombia on this website.
Colombia Holidays #5. April 10 – Friday: Good Friday (Viernes Santo)
Good Friday, also known at Holy Friday, Great Friday and Black Friday, is a religious holiday that commemorates the crucifixion – and eventual death – of Jesus Christ. This holiday is observed on the Friday before Easter Sunday.
In the Roman Catholic tradition, this day is typically treated as a fast day – a day in which one only has one full meal and abstains from the consumption of meat.
Colombia Holidays #6. May 1 – Friday: Labor Day (Día del Trabajo)
Labor Day originated in the United States where it falls on the first Monday in September.
Throughout the rest of the world, over 80 countries including Colombia celebrate Labor Day, also known as May Day and International Workers’ Day, on the first day of May.
Colombia Holidays #7. May 25– Monday: Ascension Day (Día de la Ascención)
Ascension Day is the celebration of Jesus rising into heaven after he had spent 40 days on earth after the resurrection. According to the New Testament, this took place before the eyes of his disciples. Ascension Day is the 40th day of Easter.
In Colombia, as with many other religious holidays, Ascension Day is celebrated on the Monday after the actual date.
Colombia Holidays #8. June 15 – Monday: Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi signifies the body and blood of Jesus Christ. And it refers to the components of the Eucharist also known as the Holy Communion, Last Supper or Lord’s Supper. This holiday celebrates Christ’s holiness.
Corpus Christi was established to create a feast focused solely on the Holy Eucharist emphasizing the joy of the Eucharist being the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
In 1264 Pope Urban IV declared Corpus Christi as a holiday. And the first country to declare it as a national holiday was Spain in 1280.
Colombia Holidays #9. June 22 – Monday: Sacred Heart (Sagrado Corazón)
The Sacred Heart holiday commemorate the physical heart of Jesus as a symbol of his divine love for all humanity. The devotion to the Sacred Heart originally developed in the middle ages out of worship to the wounds that Jesus received during crucifixion.
In Colombia, this official public holiday always falls on a Monday, since it’s celebrated 10 weeks and a day after Easter Sunday.
Colombia Holidays #10. June 29 – Monday: Saint Peter and Saint Paul Day (Día de San Pedro y San Pablo)
This public holiday commemorates the martyrdom (torture, suffering and death) of two saints, the two apostles, Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
This holiday is likely one of the oldest holidays celebrated in the Christian calendar. In 2010, images of Peter and Paul were found on the wall of catacombs dating back to the 4th Century AD.
In 2019, two Colombian holidays are celebrated on July 1: Sacred Heart and Saint Peter and Saint Paul Day.
Colombia Holidays #11. July 20 – Monday: Colombia Independence Day
This holiday is always celebrated on July 20 in Colombia. On July 20, 1810, an uprising in Bogota is seen as the start for independence in Colombia.
On this date in 1810, Colombian patriots stirred the population of Bogotá into a major uprising in the streets against Spanish rule. And this uprising is celebrated by the Colombia Independence Day holiday.
Independence Day in Colombia is typically celebrated with parades and marches throughout the country. Fireworks, watching sports and listening to traditional Colombian music are other popular activities.
Colombia Holidays #12. August 7 – Friday: Battle of Boyacá Day (Día de Batalla de Boyacá)
This holiday in Colombia is celebrated every year on August 7. This marks the date of the Battle of Boyacá on August 7, 1819, which was a decisive victory in the war for Colombia’s independence from Spain.
Even though fighting continued for a few more years, the victory at Boyacá is seen as the definitive battle in Colombia’s war for independence. This important victory was the precursor for Colombia’s eventual independence from Spain.
Colombia Holidays #13. August 17 – Monday: Assumption of Mary (Asunción de María)
The Assumption of Mary is holiday that is celebrated in August every year. This day commemorates Mary’s death and her assumption into heaven.
The Assumption of Mary was first celebrated under Pope Sergius I in the 8th century and Pope Leo IV confirmed the feast as official.
Some people mistakenly believe Mary ascended into heaven. But this is incorrect. It was Jesus Christ who ascended into heaven. While Mary was assumed or taken into heaven by God.
Colombia Holidays #14. October 12 – Monday: Columbus Day (Día de la Raza)
Columbus Day celebrates the day when Christopher Columbus first arrived in the Americas, which occurred in 1492. This is a day that is celebrated in many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Colombia Holidays #15. November 2 – Monday: All Saints’ Day (Día de los Santos)
All Saint’s Day, also known at All Hallow’s Day, Hallowmas, the Feast of All Saints or Solemnity of All Saints is a holiday that is a commemoration day for all Christian saints, known and unknown.
In Roman Catholicism, All Saints’ Day is reportedly considered to be a holy day of obligation. So, Catholics are supposed to go to mass on the date unless there is a good reason not to attend, such as illness.
Colombia Holidays #16. November 16 – Monday: Independence of Cartagena
Independence of Cartagena in 2020 is celebrated on Monday, November 16. The holiday commemorates when Cartagena became the first Colombian city to declare independence from the Spanish.
Festivities on this day include many parades in Colombia. And the most notable is in Cartagena where the most colorful parade takes place, which ends at Plaza Trinidad, the location where Cartagena’s independence was originally declared.
Also, in Cartagena on this date is the ‘Battle of Flowers’, which is the beauty contest to pick Miss Colombia who will go on to represent Colombia in the Miss Universe contest.
Colombia Holidays #17. December 8 – Tuesday: Immaculate Conception Day (Día de la Inmaculada Concepción)
This holiday celebrates the belief that Jesus was born of an immaculate conception to the Virgin Mary. And that Mary was void of original sin all of her life.
This holiday actually starts on the evening before in Colombia. In addition, the Christmas season in Colombia unofficially tends to start on December 7, which is known as Día de las Velitas (Day of Candles).
In the evening on December 7, people place paper lanterns and candles are placed on porches, balconies, streets, sidewalks, squares and parks in cities and pueblos throughout Colombia. On December 8 it is typical for houses in Colombia to hoist a white flag with the image of the Virgin Mary.
Everywhere in the country, you will be able to see these candles and lanterns. They are placed to honor Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception.
Colombia Holidays #18. December 25 – Friday: Christmas Day (Día de Navidad)
Christmas Day celebrates the nativity of Jesus, which according to tradition took place on December 25, 1 BC. December 25 is a public holiday in many countries around the world.
Christmas is more of a month-long celebration in Colombia than just a day. Medellín in particular celebrates Christmas in a big way each year with its world-class Christmas lights in 2019 from November 29, 2019 to January 6, 2020.
Colombian Holidays: The Other Holidays
Some cities in Colombia have additional public holidays. For example, Barranquilla has two holidays on the Monday and Tuesday of Carnival in Barranquilla. These will be on February 24 and 25 in 2020.
In addition, there are many observed holidays that aren’t official holidays. For example, Día de Amor y Amistad (Valentine’s Day of Colombia) falls on September 19 in 2020.
Here’s a list of several of the observed holidays in Colombia in 2020 that aren’t official public holidays:
- March 8 – Sunday: Women’s Day
- April 5 – Sunday: Palm Sunday
- April 12 – Sunday: Easter Day
- April 25 – Saturday: Children’s Day
- April 26 – Sunday: Secretaries’ Day
- May 10 – Sunday: Mother’s Day
- May 15 – Friday: Teacher’s Day
- June 21 – Sunday: Father’s Day
- September 19 – Saturday: Día de Amor y Amistad (Valentine’s Day of Colombia)
- October 31 – Saturday: Halloween
- November 14 – Saturday: Colombian Women’s Day
- December 24 – Thursday: Christmas Eve
- December 31 – Thursday: New Year’s Eve
Many Places Are Closed on Colombian Holidays
In Colombia, on the public holiday dates, all the banks, government offices, many shops and some restaurants close. Larger grocery stores tend to be open and many shops in the malls and movie theaters will be open on Colombia holidays.
In some countries, during holidays everything seems to be closed. In Colombia, the malls and movie theaters tend to be open and are normally be packed on the holidays. So, if you plan to go to a movie on a holiday in Colombia buy a ticket early or you will have to stand in a long line.
The labor laws in Colombia require that employers provide their employees a day off from work for all official national holidays. But these laws do not state whether or not it is required for employees to be paid for national holidays.
However, in many cases, employment contracts provide employees with payment on days off that occur due to an official national holiday. Also, some employees will have to work on holidays, as not everything closes.
The Bottom Line: Colombia Holidays in 2019
Several of the public holidays in Colombia in 2020 fall on a Monday. Also, three are on a Friday this year. So, there are 15 long weekends in Colombia in 2020 due to Colombia holidays. As a result, 28 percent of the weeks in 2020 in Colombia are long weekends due to public Colombian holidays.
With so many Colombia holidays each year, it turns out that many Colombians on some of these holidays don’t even know what is being celebrated in my experience.
In addition, having many Colombian holidays is probably one of the reasons why Colombia tends to rank highly in global happiness surveys over the past few years.
Most notably, Colombia frequently ranks in the top three in happiness surveys. And several times Colombia has been ranked number one. For example in 2015, WIN/Gallup ranked Colombia the happiest country in the world.
Also, many of the dates for Colombian holidays change each year. So, we plan to update this article each year or post a new article so this website remains up-to-date.
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Editors note: completely updated on December 25, 2019 with the dates for the Colombia holidays in 2020.