Guatemala & its Patron Saint Festivals

by Diana Pastor

Every year, in all of the towns across this colourful country, festivals are held in honor of the Catholic patron saint of the local church. These festivals are held in each department not only as a celebration of religious fervor but also as a manifestation of the unique culture of each place. With each festival, fairs come to entertain the locals and visitors with rides, traditional foods, marimba, folk dances and tropical music.

In this edition of XelaWho we’re going to introduce you to some of the most important and extravagant festivals across the country to make sure our readers don’t miss out.

Perhaps the biggest of them all is that of our very own Quetzaltenango. It is thrown in honour of the Virgin of Rosario on September 15th. There are various sporting and cultural activities throughout the town, among which the selection of Miss Quetzaltenango and the Flower Arrangements stand out as the most anticipated. It is an event known throughout Central America.

A month before the feria of Quetzaltenango, on August 15th we celebrate the festival in honor of the Virgin of Asunción in Jocotenango. Many people from the capital arrive to visit this town located a few minutes from Antigua Guatemala to enjoy this party, which mixes religious fervor with the traditional festive spirit of the town.
On January 15 the Black Christ festival is celebrated in Esquipulas, Chiquimula, which is the largest religious festival of Guatemala, attracting many international tourists. Here you can expect religious pilgrimages alongside cultural and sporting festivities, as well as Moorish dances, in honor of the image of the Cristo Negro.
On the 25th of January, Rabinal Achi, one of the most important dancing events in country, takes place. It is a traditional, ancestral indigenous dance tinged with poetry and theatre that takes place in Rabinal, Baja Verapaz. The dance coincides with the festival in honour of Saint Paul the Apostle.

On November 1, in Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Huehuetenango, the town´s festival takes place amongst horse races, social events and a lot of alcohol. The colorful costumes of the men are the distinctive feature of this event since, even in recent years, this region has retained its traditional dress amongst the men. A variety of traditional dances are also performed, such as that of the deer’s or the ixcampores.

Finally, we have the 7th of October festival in Livingston, Izabal which is also dedicated to the Virgin of Rosario. The inter-cultural mix of the region comes to the fore for this festival, which mixes religious festivities with garifuna culture and its contagious rhythms and dances.

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