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Peruvian Holidays

Cusco CarnivalAfter the colorful glittery fireworks of the New Year’s Eve and the recent joyful throwing of water bombs, an inseparable element of the summer Carnival Celebrations throughout Peru, what other Peruvian holidays are we looking forward to this year? Experience them during your visit!

 

 

 

 

 

Cusco, as much as most of Peru, is a space where the ancient, the old, and the modern blend, and where today, after a history of clashes, a diversity of cultures influence each other peacefully. This evolution is most notable in popular celebrations.

 

Señor de los Temblores – end of March or beginning of April

There was a devastating earthquake in 1650 in Cusco, so the devout pleaded the Crist on the Cross in the Cathedral for help. The earthquake stopped. And since then the Crist, Señor de los Temblores (Lord of Earthquakes), is honored by being carried around the city in big processions on Easter Mondays. This celebration blends the Andean beliefs with Catholic traditions, because the indigenous people used to carry the Inca mummies around in veneration before the conquistadors came, and also the Cathedral of Cusco is built on the site of the ancient Temple of Apulla Tikse Wiracocha. The statue of Crucified Christ, today’s Señor de los Temblores, was originally donated by the Spanish King Carlos V. The original centuries old paint has never been restored despite it being darkened by the smoke from candles and incense. This is why the statue of Señor de los Temblores has a shadowy look on its face.[1]

 

Qoyllur Rit’i – May – exact date varies

Qoyllur Rit’i ‘is the biggest pilgrimage among the indigenous of the American continent.’[2] It starts in Cusco and ends on the top of the Ausangate Mountain in Quispicanhi Province. Again the Catholic practice blended into the Andean custom. ‘More than 10,000 people come to the bottom of the snow-covered Ausangate Mountain to pay tribute to a painting of Niño Jesús. The procession is accompanied by music and dances. Towards the end a native Quero group ascends to the summit looking to see the Snow Star (Qoyllur Rit’i – the Pleiades Constellation otherwise known as Seven Sisters) carrying big blocks of ice on their backs, in order to receive blessings. Then they take these ice blocks home to their communities to water their lands with the sacred water.’[3] During this occasion Cusco fills with pilgrims dressed in colorful costumes. The participants leave Cusco at 10:00pm and arrive the next morning at 5:00am. It tends to be very cold during the night, so taking part in the procession is quite a challenge especially for visitors.

 

Corpus Christi – June – 9 weeks after Semana Santa/Easter Holidays

The festival of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ) is celebrated all over Peru since colonial times, but the biggest one takes place in Cusco. Ancient Inca ritual have become clothed in Catholic belief, therefore today statues of patrons venerated in neighboring towns and villages are brought from their churches to the Main Cathedral on Cusco’s Plaza de Armas. During the Inca Empire mummified bodies of the rulers and the elite would be brought to the Capital City of Qosqo (hispanicized Cusco) to receive honors and offerings. Peru’s leading expert on mummies Dr Sonia Guillen recently told BBC Travel that ‘the Incas revered their royal dead because they were still very much part of the world of the living […]. The Inca mummies participated in meetings, still held property and made decisions.’ Today it is the virgins and the saints in lavishly embroidered garments being carried around accompanied by drums, trumpets, and helicons, echoing the ancient customs. As many Peruvian holidays are celebrated with food, Corpus Christi is the best opportunity to try the typical Andean dish chiri uchu in one of the traditional fairs.

 

Inti Raymi – 24th June

During the Inca times worshiping Inti (God Sun) was the most important ceremony of the year. It would take place on the winter solstice – 21st June. Inti Raymi being an Andean celebration important throughout the Tahuantinsuyo, the Inca Empire, was strongly suppressed by the Catholic Church and gradually became forgotten.[4]

‘In 1944 a group of intellectuals and artists from Cusco led by Humberto Vidal U. decided to recover Inti Raymi and present it in the form of theatre. […] Since then, with further historical research the festival grew richer and more complex.’[5] Each year the organizers continue embellishing this occasion trying to overcome the previous one. Families of cusqueños fill the Sacsaywaman Archeological Site where the final part of Inti Raymi takes place (the festival begins early in the morning in the Sacred Garden of Qoricancha Temple on Avenida El Sol). Bring a snack and mix into the crowd to experience how ‘what used to be a religious ceremony during the Inca rule became a performance that recreates common sense of identity.’[6] 24th June was established for the Inti Raymi festival.

Moreover, during the month of June the center of Cusco becomes a stage for dance parades showcasing live music and typical dresses from all over the Cusco region – its mountainous districts and its jungle districts. High schools, universities, banks, government offices, and many others participate and compete for days dancing up the Avenida el Sol and around the Plaza de Armas of the Imperial Capital. Many of the groups rehearse their routines all year long for this special season. June is a wonderful time to see a part of the diverse cultural roots that form the vivid Peruvian mosaic.

 

Noche de Luz y Sonido – Night of Light and Sound – June

Posters in the city center inform about the exact date this event will take place. It usually starts at 6:00pm. It is a live concert on the Plaza de Armas that ends with spectacular fireworks that can be seen from many different points of the city. Cusqueños love to celebrate and many visitors join them. On occasions like Noche de Luy y Sonido the Main Square enlarges beyond its usual size, so that all who want to enjoy this evening can come.

 

Pachamama Raymi – 1st August

This is an Andean ritual, performed by Andean shamans, that worships and pays tribute to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) in a special rite called ‘payment to the earth.’ The shaman burns a so called despacho offering (with coca leaves, fresh flowers, colorful candy and cotton strings, corn, sea shells, huayruro seeds) and spills wine onto the ground. People pour yellow pica pica – tiny round paper pieces – at their doors and inside their houses. Business owners often hire shamans to come and perform ‘payment to the earth’ in their offices to receive protection and blessings from Pachamama. This celebration marks the beginning of the Andean New Year. ‘Payments to the earth’ are made throughout the year for different reasons like to ensure fertility for example, or simply as an expression of gratitude, but August is the most important month for this ceremony. For different occasions the despachos consist of different items.

Cusco San Pedro

Festivity supplies, San Pedro Market, Cusco

 

Caminos del Inca Rally – October

Despite the diversity of traditions dating centuries back into different histories, Cusco stays up to date with the latest. Caminos del Inca is a multi-day car race organized by Automóvil Club Peruano. The more than 3,100km long rally starts in Lima and goes through Huancayo, Ayacucho, Cusco, Arequipa, and back to Lima. Many look forward to the sound of roaring motors that fills Cusco center in mid-October. Caminos del Inca is a moment of adrenaline rush in the everyday life of the region.

 

Santuranticuy – 24th December

Every 24th December the Plaza de Armas of Cusco fills with local men and women selling typical clothes, sweets, herbs, jewelry, paintings, and more in a traditional open air market dating back to colonial times. We recommend spending Christmas time in Cusco as great opportunity to easily find truly authentic handmade Andean products.

 

Plan your trip to Peru with the festive days in mind:

CALENDAR OF PERUVIAN HOLIDAYS

Jan 1 New Year’s Day, National holiday
Jan 6 The Three Wise Men Day / Día de los Reyes Magos

Feb 2 Virgen de la Candelaria – the most famous takes place in Puno
Feb Carnival – one week throughout South America

Semana Santa – end of March or beginning of April
Mar 24 Maundy Thursday National holiday, Christian
Mar 25 Good Friday National holiday, Christian
Mar 27 Easter Day National holiday, Christian
Mar 28 Easter Monday / Señor de los Temblores – Cusco

May 1 Labor Day / May Day, National holiday
May 3 La Invención de la Santa Cruz – throughout the Andes Mountains
May 8 Mother’s Day

Early June Qoyllur Rit’i: Cordillera Vilcanota – Sinakara Valley, Cusco
Jun 7 Flag Day
Mid June Corpus Christi: a Thrusday after Trinity Sunday throughout Peru
Jun 19 Father’s Day
Jun 24 Farmer Day
Jun 24 Inti Raymi Day – Cusco; Día de Indio – Lima
Jun 29 St Peter and St Paul, National holiday
June – end Semana del Andinisimo – Cordillera Blanca – visit Huaraz

Jul 16 Virgen del Carmen – all over Peru, particularly in Paucartambo, Cusco

Fiestas Patrias
Jul 28 Independence Day, National holiday
Jul 29 Independence Day (day 2), National holiday

Aug 30 Santa Rosa De Lima, National holiday

Sep 8 Virgen de la Natividad – Cajamarca, Huanyaco, Cusco
Sep 24 Armed Forces Day
Sep – Oct Spring Festival – Marinera Dance, Beauty Contests, Paso Horses – Trujillo

Oct 8 Battle of Angamos, National holiday
Oct 18 Señor de los Milagros – Lima, San Lucas, Huancayo
Oct 31 Día de la Canción Criolla, and Halloween – getting bigger every year in Cusco

Nov 1 All Saints’ Day, National holiday
Nov 2 All Souls’ Day – Día de los Muertos – cemeteries throughout Peru
Nov 4 – 5 Festival of Manco Capac – Lake Titicaca, Puno

Dec 3 – 13 Virgen de Guadalupe – Huancayo
Dec 8 Feast of the Immaculate Conception, National holiday

Christmas
Dec 24 Christmas Eve, Christian
Dec 25 Christmas Day National holiday, Christian
And Danza de las Tijeras – Scissors Dance – Huancavelica
Dec 26 Christmas Day Christian

Dec 31 New Year’s Eve
Jan 1 New Year’s Day, National holiday

 

For more on Peruvian holidays click here. For more on things to do in Cusco click here. For more on what do do in the Sacred Valley click here. For more on Machu Picchu click here, herehere, and here.

 

[1], [2], [3] www.cusco-peru.info

[4][5][6] www.cusco-peru.info

 

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