Guatemala, a Central American country south of Mexico, is a paradise to rainforests and ancient Mayan sites. Guatemala is a wide mountainous region with small patches of desert and sand dunes, which makes it one of the most gorgeous tourist locations in America. Guatemala is also a colourful country with a vibrant textile tradition and day-glow clothing. This region is also famous for traditional festivals. Festivals of Guatemala are highly influenced by cultural and social heritage. Guatemala has people that belong to diverse culture and traditions. Guatemala is a world-famous exporter of coffee. Their celebration is characterised with balance of sincere expressions of love and happiness. Let’s get deep into the 3 most popular festivals in Guatemala.
Giant Kite Festival (November 1)
The Festival of Giant Kites is one of the most highlighted festivals in Guatemala. Every year, the town of Santiago Sacatepequez organizes the Festival of Giant Kites. During the event, the spectators could watch the giant and colourful kites floating above their head. The healthy craftworks can reach up to 20 meters. These are constructed from bamboo, tissue, gum and thread. The design of the kites is different from year to year. These blueprints include shapes, patterns of traditional dresses and social messages linked with photos. The best fact about the blue prints is, they are the main highlight, and hence they are not revealed until the day of festival. The view of releasing the wonderful grand kites influences the audience with an amusing effect. The giants among the kites sometimes never touch the sky, while the others (measuring up to 6 meters) are raised up by relatives and friends. This gorgeous festival is held on November 1.
The arrangements for the festival require some time. In advance, the groups of young kite makers, mostly made up of young people called “barriletes“begin their work on the giant kites months before the event. The requirements which are needed for the production of the giant kites are verified before the production. Traditionally, the construction of the kites takes 40 days. The first day which is marked by the men among the villagers heads out to the coast at 4:00 AM to collect the bamboo for the kite frames. Another interesting fact about the giant kites is that all the parts of the kites are made using nature’s bounty.As mentioned earlier, the glass which use to stick the kites is the mixture of yucca flower and lemon peel. The tails of kites are made from woven cloth. This proves that the men here follow restricted culture for the festival.
During the festival, the locals in small municipality dress up in colourful clothes and head to cemetery to spend the day cleaning up the graves and decorates them with flowers of those person who departed the family. The theories behind this festival are different, it is said that on that occasion, the souls of dead can see the real persons for 1 day, and the kites are the messengers to help the spirits of dead to find the living. Other person’s attach messages enough for the dead and connects those messages with string. when the message touches the sky with the kite, the message will be found by its rightful person. All these factors bring a wonderful feeling for this festival and makes it one of the wonderful festivals in Guatemala.
Drunken Horse Races (October)
The Drunken Horse Races is considered as a vintage tradition of many centuries old. This festival is one of the shows which describes the horsemanship, hence there is no witnesses in this race. This festival is held on October 31 to November 1. The participants are expected to ride from dawn until dusk, with a small interval for taking food only. The locals wear red-white striped trousers and colourfully designed hats and jackets. During the race, the participants stop after a swig of local alcoholic brew.Todos Santos is a tiny town in Guatemala. The Drunken Horse Races is also one of the most diverting festivals in Guatemala. The word “Todos Santos” means “all saints” in English. The most interesting thing is that the riders are drunk and horses are sober. Its quite common that we may get a feeling that it seems a bit not right to both man and the beast, but the villagers living in Guatemala’s Sierra de los Cuchumatanes mountains regard it to be a significant model of their culture.
Similar race takes place on the heart of Todos Santos. It is known as Skach Koyl in the local Mayan language. This festival takes place on morning 6 am to 6 pm.It’s a bit lengthy event, recently the locals in Todos Santos make a mud track about a14-kilometre-long in the heart of the town. The track was then lined with wooden block, to keep spectators away from joining the occasion and to ensure the security of spectators. The view of less unhealthy-looking riders above 8 healthy horses is pretty much exaggerating. On the racing day, riders lined up in the starting line and start is announced with the loud whistle. Some riders were so drunk that they had to have their hands tied to saddle. Some of the racers shouts as they flew past spectators at high speed.
Unfortunately, a few riders will be out of their saddle, some may forfeit by gently falling onto a soft pile of dirt. Even though, the majority of riders somehow reaches into the finishing line. Todos Santos Drunken Horse race is a pretty entertaining to watch. Observing and learning about Mayan’s culture during the race is a good experience. The Huehuetenango is a bit far, so it’s good to plan well to visit other locations also while moving to watch Todos Santos Drunken horse race, Huehuetenango’s eponymous capital is a good place nearby to checkout. Todos Santos village situates high up in mountains and we could feel that is very cold in there due to the influence of the high altitude. The accommodation services in Todos Santos are scarce, so it’s good to select city of Huehuetenango for accommodation. It’s believed to be a good omen for the following year signifying abundant crops and good fortune. Anyway, the Todos Santos Drunken Horse is one of the must watch festivals in Guatemala.
Chichicastenango Festivals of Santo Tomas (December 13-21)
This festival acts as a real reflection of the Maya customs. It is celebrated in the village of Chichicastenango. It is held on December 21 with 7 days of festivity, including dominant events.
On the day of festival, statue of saint is decorated colourfully with flowers, bells, mirrors, sequins, etc… and itis carried by 6 people from Santo Tomas Church through city’s streets. The roles of firecrackers and the theme dances in elaborated dresses and variety masks gives this festival a gentle feeling. There are many events that takes place on these days. It is a special type of event in which 2 men are dressed like monkeysattached to strings and they will climb 30 meters then jump in spirals around pole to the base.
The social, cultural and sports events in honour of Santo Tomas takes place from Dec 13 – Dec 21. This festival is really amusing to watch. The Chichicastenango festival is really a perfect event in Guatemala that reflects the social, cultural, religious heritage of the people living there. It also reminds us about the mind-set for outfits in the festivals. During the festival, hundreds of participants put more elaborated outfits involving intricately decorated clothes and fancy masks which transform them into representations of Spanish conquistadors. Another interesting thing about this festival is that during the festival it doesn’t matter which dress dancers are wearing. The dancers will perform with heavy, stifling costumes which they shuffled and jumped under blazing sun.
Another cool highlight about this festival is the influence of fireworks. The firework creates a diverting effect among people, making this festival more popular. The fireworks which creates a gigantic explosion in sky is very amazing to watch. Usually from morning to night, the fire workers techniciansworkhard to make sure that something will explode in the sky. It really creates a machine gun effect in the sky, with the sprinkle feel of blazing lights, which even creates a way better feeling. The other fact to describe this festival is an unpredicted day with no proper timetable. So,it’s good for visitors to be a bit alert. Otherwise, there is a strong chance that visitors will not be able to catch everything. So, it’s important to manage time, also its good to spend the night before festival in Chichi, it helps you to get started very early, allow to be more relaxed.
A trip to Guatemala has much to offer and will give you the adventure of a lifetime. If you are planning a journey to Guatemala, visit the German website Backpackertrail for the best routes and more blog posts about this country.
List of other major festivals
- January –Anu Nuevo
- February 2 to 4– Coffee harvest celebrations
- March – Pilgrimage to Chajul in the lxll Triangle
- April – Semana Santa
- May 1-Dia de Trabajo
- June 30 – Dia de Ejecito
- July – Coban folkloric festival
- August 15 – Pay of Assumption
- September 15 – Independence Day
- October 12 – Columbus Day
- November 1-2 – All saints day
- December 7 – Burning the devil