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Guatemala remains a country that is Roman Catholic because of the Spanish influence, even though the culture and history involved in their holiday celebrations are Mayan. Because of this, the spectacular parades, food, and partying maintain authentic Latin spirit but are closely linked to religion. Guatemalan culture is unique and unmistakably present at each and every one of the local celebrations that begin on New Year’s and run through Navidad (Christmas). Read through our guide on Guatemalan traditional holidays and festivals, and you will surely wish to travel and visit them all!
Mayan New Year
There is this fun celebration in Guatemala known as Mayan New Year that, unlike New Year’s Eve and day in America, happens on different days of the year. The reason for this is that the Mayan calendar has 260 days. Regardless of what day of the year Guatemala’s New Year’s Day falls on, one thing about this tradition is constant and absolute. That being that a sense of renewal and the Mayan way of life will be greatly celebrated at sites that are considered sacred throughout all of Guatemala.
Dia de Los Muertos
This is possibly one of the most well-known, favorite, and talked about Guatemalan holidays of the year. If you’re into local Guatemalan dishes, this is the only time of year that you can get ‘fiambre’, a dish locally prepared and served only on this day of festivities. The name of the celebration, Dia de Los Muertos, translates into Day of the Dead. It is Latin in origin and is observed on November 2 throughout Guatemala. To honor the occasion, Todos Santos Cuchumatán features wild horse racing, and Santiago Sacatepéquez is where everyone goes to fly beautiful, multicolored kites.
Dia de la Asuncion
In Joyabaj, one of Guatemala’s cultural centers, August 15 is the day of assumption and is celebrated with a festival called Dia de la Asuncion. As a popular holiday tradition in Guatemala, it celebrates “the bodily taking up of Mary, the mother of Jesus, into Heaven.” The main event is La Procesión, which is when the image of Our Lady of the Assumption is carried through the streets. Stop what you’re doing to watch the extraordinary site taking place on poles that reach the sky. Men swing upside down from these poles skillfully and, seemingly, fearlessly in a display known as ‘palo volador’.
Cobán Folklore Festival
It is the dream of many Guatemalan girls to be crowned the Mayan beauty queen at this folklore Festival which takes place in early August or late July every year. Dance and music are showcased and display the indigenous traditions of the area. Locally, the festival goes by the name of Rabin Ajau and takes place in a highland-located town of Cobán surrounded by coffee plantations and cloud forests. The town exports various spices, a favorite of which is cardamom.
Solely dependent on the Christian calendar, in April or March, the holy week of Easter is celebrated as Semana Santa. Throughout Guatemala major festivities honoring the religious holiday take place. Catholicism mixes with Mayan tradition during these celebratory events. Guatemalan traditions include decorating doors and windows bows, paper decorations, and curtains, as well as a procession of floats.
Coffee Harvest Celebration
One of the most unique celebrations in Guatemala comes on the second and fourth of every February, with the arrival of the harvest of coffee beans. This event is joyously celebrated. High-quality coffee is a major export in Guatemala, and they are world-famous for their delicious, incomparable beans and blends. Dancing and food and massive processions take place all over town during this annual java-honoring celebration.
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