Chile’s holidays and festivals have their roots in historical events and religion. Religion plays an important part in Chilean’s lives, some of Chile’s most important celebrations are based on religion beliefs combining Spanish and Indian tradition. Chileans honor Catholic saints with festivals that usually include processions in which religious statues are carried on the streets, people wear traditional brightly colored costumes and dance to folk music. To recognize the increasing importance of the Evangelical and Protestant churches in the country in 2008 the government implemented a new public holiday, Reformation Day or National Day of the Evangelical and Protestant Churches to be observed the last week of October. For a complete list of Chile’s official public holidays click here.
Among the most important religious holidays are Easter and Christmas. The entire Easter weekend including Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday are official holidays. The Sunday after Easter Sunday Chileans observe Domingo de Cuasimodo to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
Christmas coincides with the beginning of summer and many celebrate it outdoors. The celebration starts on the eve of Christmas Day with dinner with family members and friends, presents are exchanged after midnight. Many Chileans attend a midnight mass called misa de gallo.
Other major religious holidays include Feast of Saint Peter and Paul celebrated on June 29th, Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen on July 16th, the Assumption of Virgin Mary remembering Mary’s passage to heaven on August 15th, All Saints Day celebrating the dead and martyrs on November 1st and Immaculate Conception.
One of the most magnificent and colorful festivals is Fiesta de la Tirana celebrated on July 16th in the village La Tirana in the north of Chile where Chileans celebrate their patron mother Virgen del Carmen. It is the biggest celebration in this area and the second largest in Chile after Fiesta del Rosario de Andacollo. The population of La Tirana is 560 inhabitants and during the week of celebration it receives between 200,000 and 250,000 visitors from Peru and Bolivia in addition to Chileans. La Tirana is an Andean celebration with roots in Pachamama, the Inca goddess of agriculture. Its modern day celebration was created by miners working in the copper and silver mines in the north of Chile, Bolivia and Peru.
Independence Day – Fiestas Patrias
Apart from religious holidays Chileans also celebrate many historical events and contributions. On September 18th or “dieciocho” the country celebrates Independence Day or Fiestas Patrias commemorating the beginning of their road to freedom from Spain although Chile officially proclaimed its independence the 12th of February, 1818. Fiestas Patrias is a weeklong celebration that includes Armed Forces Day on the 19th during which soldiers and important politicians gather in the main plaza and military and naval parades celebrating Chile’s military victories take place. This day is also the first day of Spring in the Southern hemisphere.
The entire week is celebrated with lots of Chilean food, drinking, dancing and lots of flag waving. Chileans are very proud of their heritage, history and economic and cultural achievement in the last decades and this is the occasion where they display their national pride.
Many of the celebrations are held in fondas or ramadas. Many fondas are in large gathering halls but they are also set in temporary open sites with thatches roofs made from tree branches, a dance floor and a makeshift stage for musicians. There are tables to eat, music, dancing, a wide variety of Chilean food and drinks. Fondas operate for five or six consecutive days.
Celebrating Chile’s cultural heritage is part of this weeklong celebration. There are cueca, the national dance, competitions and shows and Chilean huaso rodeos. Huasos take part in parades wearing a traditional costume that includes a straw hat called chupalla and a poncho called manta over a waist jacket and leather leggings.
Like in much of the world Labor Day is celebrated on May 1st. Navy Day is May 21st where Chile honors those who gave their lives in the Battle of Iquique in the War of the Pacific against Peru and Bolivia in 1879. September 11th is the anniversary of the Pinochet military coup. Columbus Day is celebrated in October however this holiday represents the conquest and mistreatment of the local indigenous people by the Spanish conquerors. In recent years South Americans have used this occasion to celebrate their Spanish heritage instead of the oppression and subjugation that followed the arrival of the Spanish.
List of government declared official public holidays in Chile.
Chile has a remarkable record of literary achievement. Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda were recipients of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Chile is a diverse society with roots in South America and Europe, about 44% of its population is mestizo, a mix of European and Amerindian descent.
What not to miss when in Chile. A list of memorable and historical places and cultural insights of Chile.