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Once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to experience Guatemala's memorable occasions, unavailable anywhere else. Our exclusive special event tour additions will provide a unique outlook on the traditions, culture and excitement of Guatemala.
ALL SAINTS DAY
Sumpango Kites -
Day of the Dead in Guatemala, within the municipality of Sumpango, is celebrated differently than other areas in Central America with their famous annual Kite Festival. Thousands of people, locals and foreigners, flock to Sumpango to see this impressive event.
The Kite Festival, which takes place on November 1st All Saints Day, is known by the enormous kites, ranging from 1 to 20 meters in diameter. Various community groups gather together to create these giant kites from colorful tissue paper for months leading up to the event.
HOLY WEEK EVENTS
Holy Week (Semana Santa)
Although Holy Week stems from a very religious background, one does not have to be a Catholic to appreciate the excitement and energy of Antigua’s celebrations. A very unique element of Antigua’s celebrations, and perhaps a crucial part of Antigua’s popularity for Holy Week is the Mayan component and the fusion of these distinct cultures. Antigua offers to the world an impressive facet to the Easter celebrations, their alfombras. Alfombra means carpet in Arabic.
Antigua residents begin work, sometimes months in advance, for the Holy Week alfombras. These intricately designed carpets are created from sand, colored sawdust, flowers and plants to be given as a sacrificial offering. First, sand is spread across Antigua’s famous cobblestone streets to level the roads, the colored sawdust and decorative flowers and plants are then placed to create vivid scenes from nature, Mayan tradition, and biblical events.
As Antigua rolls out the carpet for the Holy Week processions, visitors can enjoy the vivid colors and aromas throughout the streets of Antigua, while street vendors offer traditional foods and beautiful flowers for sale. When the procession come down the streets the carpets are destroyed and visitors will need to wait until the next year to enjoy this unique tradition again.
OTHER EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS
Ciudad Vieja -
Every December Ciudad Vieja welcomes 24 devils to their streets. These devils search the city in pursuit of corrupt souls to take with them back to the pits of hell. Yet, the residents of the city come out to applaud these red devils, rather than running to hide. The 24 devils are the heroes of the Baile de los 24 Diablos, or the Dance of the 24 Devils.
Cuidad Vieja, just outside of Antigua, hosts this theatrical dance on the streets of the town. Closing down the streets, the annual Dance of the 24 Devils is an exclusive tradition of the culture of Ciudad Vieja inhabitants, with over 400 years of history. This dance among several others, including Baile del Torito (The Bull Dance) were introduced by Franciscan Monks, and are performed annually beginning on December 8th to honor the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception.
Santo Tomas at
December 21 marks the date of the celebration of the Patron Saint, Santo Tomás. Beginning on December 13, the iconic Mayan town of Chichicastenango, set in the western Highlands of Guatemala, gives way to an amazing festival. The town known for its traditional K’iche’ Mayan inhabitants is famous for the amazing markets held every Thursday and Sunday, but during the Festival of Santo Tomás the town transforms into something truly awe-inspiring.
The town's usual brilliance of color is exaggerated during the festival with costumed dancers, astonishing textiles, and elaborate masks. Most of the town's activities take place on the steps of the Dominican church of Santo Tomás, which was built over 400 years ago by the Spanish. The streets are packed, and enormous amounts of fireworks are continually exploding in celebration.
Todos Santos Cuchumatán
Todos Santos Cuchumatán is a municipality at about 8,ooo ft elevation, made up of the city of Todos Santos Cuchumatán, 6 villages and almost 70 small rural communities. Todos Santos's population is made up of mostly indigenous people of Mayan descent, many of which still speak the Mayan language of Mam.
The annual festival of All Saints Day (Todo Santos) November 1, is celebrated on October 31-November 2. The towns festivities include traditional dances and music, such as the marimba, and the famous horse races.
The horse races are often a chaotic setting as bloodshed is expected due to the tradition of the riders drinking alcohol for several days leading up to the races.
Quema del Diablo -
The Burning of the Devil
Every year on December 7th at 6p.m., Guatemalans take some time to burn The Devil. For the week leading to the event, market vendors sell papier–mâché devils to the local people and each city prepares a large wooden statue representing the devil to be burned.
This traditional devil burning began in colonial times as anticipation of the feast of the Immaculate Conception. While the wealthier residents of Guatemala City would adorn their homes with lanterns in celebration, the poor could not afford such copious decoration. Without lanterns the poor began to burn their year’s worth of trash in front of their homes. Soon The Devil was added to the trash and burned to represent all of the bad from the previous year making way for the new, and the tradition of the Quema del Diablo began.
Although several cities across Guatemala celebrate this tradition, one of the most notable locations is Ciudad Vieja. Here, you will find a three-story high devil, which is burned in the city’s main square.
Photo Credit: Geovin Morales