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Guatemala’s Holidays and Celebrations

Guatemala is a land of mainly small area festivals and larger national holidays, many of which are rooted in religious traditions.

Small village festivals are celebrated around the country and throughout the year. During Guatemalan holidays you can expect to hear a lot of fanfare and fireworks. A popular food dish served at fiestas is called “Sak ik” which is a traditional ceremonial meal. Sak ik is mostly turkey with a white sauce accompanying it. At village fiestas you will commonly see marimbas playing and other instruments such as the woodwind chirimia and, of course, drums.

Some national holidays in Guatemala are like North American holidays only with different celebrations. New Years day is celebrated most commonly by wearing new clothes in the hope that this will bring good luck. Guatemalan’s celebrate this national holiday like any other holiday, with lively music, colorful costumes, and plenty of boj. Boj is alcohol made from sugar canes; it was first created by Guatemalans for celebration purposes. It also includes “toritos” which are menacing men in firecracker-encrusted cages who bang around in crowds of people. 

One of the most widely celebrated national holidays in Guatemala is Independence Day, this falls on September 15. The whole country embraces this celebration with dances, the customary fireworks, and parades. The city of Quetzaltenango hosts one of the largest and most vibrant Independence Day celebrations. In the days before Independence Day, schools and buses are decorated with patriotic symbols and signs in celebration. In the student assemblies students sing the national anthem and on Independence Day in Antigua school bands, consisting of drums and xylophones, march around the Central Park celebrating.

Leading up to Christmas, you can find the town fair in Chichicastenango to be a fun attraction for both children and adults. Traditional music and dances help to celebrate the coming holiday season. Such as you would expect in the United States, many of the national and religious holidays often result in the closing of government agencies, banks, and schools. Nine days before Christmas, a group of people reenacting Mary and Joseph’s hunt for shelter pass through the streets. The beat of drums and the sizzle of fireworks give lively accompaniment as the figures of Mary and Joseph are taken to a friend’s house, where a carol is sung asking for a place to stay for the Holy Family.

The king of all Holidays in Guatemala is Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Semana Santa is celebrated throughout Latin America. It is a group of people that plays the crucification of Jesus and the following resurrection of Jesus. Since Semana Santa is a very tourist friendly holiday you will find the most famous celebration in Antiqua. As part of the celebration the people of Antiqua cover the streets with rugs that are quite colorful.  

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