If you are planning your 2023 holiday in South America, using this guide to Latin American traditions will make for a richer experience. The Latin American world is unlike any other continent in many respects, with each nation having its own unique culture, and some overlapping traditions that cover the entire continent. There is also heavy European influence, largely due to the Spanish and Portuguese conquests that began in the mid-16th century.
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Here are a few Latin American traditions that you might encounter on your South American holiday. Use this guide to help you plan an itinerary that includes the traditions or celebrations you most want to experience.
This is also known as Chilean Independence Day or Dieciocho, a prominent and widely recognised tradition in Chile. Celebrated on September 18th and 19th, it commemorates Chile’s independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1810. The festivities include the national dance called Cueca, performed by couples in traditional attire, accompanied by live music. Ramadas, temporary structures resembling tents, host fondas offering traditional food and drinks. Parades, rodeos, folkloric performances, and cultural activities contribute to the festive atmosphere filled with national pride and a strong sense of Chilean identity. If you plan on experiencing Fiestas Patrias, you may want to book one of the Chile guided tours in 2023, which is one of the most popular and it includes many heritage sites, as well as festivals.
This Christian festival starts on December 16th and continues for 9 days, ending on December 24th. People dress as Joseph and Mary, often with a donkey and they proceed to tour the town with many following behind; this journey celebrates their efforts to find a place for Mary to give birth to Jesus. The final night of this festival falls on Christmas Eve and midnight mass is held all over Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras; even some southern parts of the US celebrate Las Posadas, which means ‘inns’ in Spanish.
Oaxaca Horseradish Festival
Held in Oaxaca, Mexico, the Oaxaca Horseradish Festival occurs on the evening of 23rd December, when people line up in Oaxaca Square to receive horseradishes that are carved into traditional figures from the folklore of the 19th century. Ever since the Spanish and Portuguese came to South America, Christianity took a firm foothold across the Latin American continent and many of the festivals have a religious context.
Novena Of Aguinaldos
The Novena of Aguinaldos festival lasts for 9 nights, when people of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, host 9 nights of prayer in anticipation of Christ’s birthday on December 25th. Churches are the locations where people gather, with some dressing up as Joseph & Mary, depicting nativity scenes.
Three Kings Day
January 6th is three Kings Day when children receive gifts that depict Jesus receiving gold, frankincense and myrrh from the Three Wise Men. Children put their shoes by the door so the kings know where to stop, and a gift is found under the Christmas tree on January 7th.
The Alasitas Fair is a renowned tradition held in La Paz, Bolivia, dedicated to Ekeko, the god of abundance. The fair lasts a month from January 24th. People buy miniature replicas of desired items, believing these will bring good fortune when blessed by a shaman. This vibrant event features thousands of vendors, attracting locals and tourists alike. It showcases the fusion of indigenous beliefs and Catholicism within Bolivian culture. Join one of the guided tours of Bolivia and you can enjoy some of the most colourful festivals where everyone has fun!
Rio de Janeiro is the place; the Friday before Ash Wednesday is the time. Two million people a day are on the streets in what is billed as the biggest carnival on the planet. It includes at least seven days of colourful parades, with everyone dancing, which is a sight to behold. The Brazilians know how to party and this event draws many foreign tourists. Some attend every year and have been coming for years. Dates vary due to the lunar cycle. This year (2023) it was held April 20-29 and next year, the event begins February 9th through to February 14th. The origins date back to the 16th century when people gathered in the streets and played a variety of games. The idea stuck and it became an annual event. Now the Rio Carnival draws in more people and has become more elaborate over the years.
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Summary: Guide to Latin American Traditions
If you are planning to spend your holiday in Latin America, there are always festivals and traditions that are steeped in history. The best way to enjoy a South American holiday is to book a luxury guided tour via an online tour operator. Having an English-speaking guide enables you to get insights into the culture and traditions. Tour guides will have a wealth of information on their history as well. Hopefully, this guide to Latin American traditions will help you schedule your itinerary and book the tours you wish to take.