The Guatemalan calendar is packed with special dates. Thanks to influence from the Maya and the Spanish, holidays and fiestas are a mixture of indigenous traditions and religious customs. With every celebration comes the liberal consumption of boj, an alcohol made from sugar cane that is also known as â€śwhite lightning.â€ť Pretty much every celebration, procession, or fiesta is also accompanied with fireworksâ€”but be careful, as injuries are not uncommon.
Small, local fiestas called cofradias are prevalent throughout the country, usually dedicated to the town's patron saint. During these celebrations, a group of people carry a religious icon through the street while fireworks light up the sky to scare away evil spirits. There is always plenty of dancing, and musicians joyfully play the national instrument, marimbas. The traditional meal of choice is Sak ik, a turkey dish with white sauce, which is always served with an abundance of boj.
The most rejoiced holiday celebrated universally in Guatemala is Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Antigua, famous for its vibrant traditions, draws thousands of visitors during the holiday. The main event is on Good Friday, when the people of Antigua place elaborate handmade carpets outside of their homes. At first glance the colonial and Mayan influence carpets look real, but a closer look shows they are actually made of flowers, pines, and leaves. In the morning, men and boys dressed in purple line the carpeted streets while around seventy people carry a giant sculpture of Christ bearing the crucifix on their shoulders. The processions last into the night as onlookers watch from the streets and balconies.
The town of Santiago Sacatepepequez has a unique tradition on All Saints Day, also known as Day of the Dead. Locals dress in bright-colored clothing and walk through the streets carrying giant, circular kitesâ€”some as tall as two stories high. Messages to the dead are tied to the kite tails in hopes that the locals can fly the kite high enough to communicate with the departed. A rainbow of kites dots the sky in this celebration of the dead, each hue meaning something different. Across the country, Guatemalans eat Fiambre, a salad made of a mixture of deceased relative's favorite ingredients, that is eaten only during these days.
Much like other Latin American countries, Guatemala celebrates Carnaval. Although the celebrations aren't as outrageous as in Brazil, Guatemalans do bring their own special touches to the holiday. One tradition is to have children clean out eggs, fill the shells with confetti, and then cover the opening with tissue paper. On the day of Carnaval, children dress in colorful costumes and have confetti fights in the schoolyards. In the end, the children (and the ground) are covered in a blanket of sparkling confetti. Mazatenango is a city famous for an eight day Carnival Feast. The cheerful celebration brings the city to life through colorful parades, an abundance of food, and traditional music.
Many national holidays in Guatemala might seem familiar, but Guatemalans celebrate them with a different twist. Take New Years for example: Guatemalans typically ring in the new year by wearing new clothes, a tradition that is supposed to bring good luck. Men wearing masks make their way through crowds and set off fireworks from cages that are fitted around their body. New Years is a lively holiday, with lively music and plenty of boj.
September 15th is Independence Day, Guatemala's most widely celebrated national holiday. The holiday brings fireworks, parades, and lots of dancing. In the city of quetzaltenango, locals deck out buses with vibrant, patriotic symbols. Students march around the Central Park Square singing the national anthem and playing in bands.
Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Guatemala: When to Go to Huehuetenango, When To Go To Santa Cruz del QuichĂ©, Holidays/Festivals, Holidays & Festivals, When to Go to Nebaj, Semana Santa, List Of Holidays And Fiestas In Guatemala and When To Go To Chichicastenango.