SANTIAGO – Chile is a country with a rich history and a diverse landscape, from the northern desert to the southern mountains, and the many different festivals in Chile celebrate aspects of these cultures. Here are the top 10 festivals that everyone should attend.
Without a doubt Chile’s most important festival, Fiestas Patrias is the National Holiday of Chile, celebrated on Sep. 18 and 19. It is a commemoration of the First Government Assembly which marked Chilean Independence on Sep. 18, 1810. The festivities include dancing the Cueca, the national dance of Chile, which is done in pairs with handkerchiefs. People adorn their houses with the national flag and everyone takes to the streets and parks to share in games, food, and drink, including the famous “Terremoto,” usually a mix of pipeño wine, pineapple ice cream, and grenadine.
La Tirana is a widely celebrated festival, attracting many tourists and pilgrims from across the country. It takes place in the northern town of La Tirana in Tarapacá Region on June 16. The festival is a mix of the Catholic and indigenous religions in paying tribute to the Virgen del Carmen through carnivals and dancing. The dancers wear elaborate costumes and masks, with the lead dancer dressed in the most fierce costume to lead the diablada, the “dance of the devils.” Locals sell crafts and food in the streets and many masses are held in the surrounding churches during the festival.
Grape Harvest Festival
Chilean wine is world-famous, and so the Grape Harvest Festival, or “Vendimias,” is an important tradition. The festivals take place during the final week of March through May when the grapes are ripe after summer. Rural towns across central Chile celebrate the festival with a religious ceremony to bless the first batch of grapes. A Grape Queen is then chosen, who is weighed against a bottle of wine, and teams of locals engage in a grape-stomping competition to see who can pulp the most juice out of 20 kg of fruit in 10 minutes, and a fair amount of wine is also consumed to celebrate Chile’s bountiful production.
Festival de la Virgen de Andacollo
The northern festival of Andacollo in the Coquimbo region is a religious festival of the native Molle people, related to the Incas. In the native language of the Molle people, “Andacollo” means “Queen of Copper,” thus the festival is a celebration of Chile’s greatest natural resource. It is one of Chile’s most widely attended festivals, held Dec. 24 to Dec. 26, and includes traditional dances, music, and religious processions.
Tapati is a celebration of ancient culture and tradition on Easter Island (Rapa Nui), held in February. The local people paint their bodies with mythical symbols and images and gather to recount the legends of their ancestors. There are also many competitions such as swimming and canoeing which test physical skill, the most daring of which is Haka Pei, where contestants toboggan down the steep mountain on banana tree trunks.
Carnaval Andino con la Fuerza del Sol
The Andean Carnival of the Strength of the Sun is held in the northern city of Arica during the first week of February. It is a blend of Catholic Spanish and indigenous traditions, in which locals flood the streets with a vibrant carnival, dancing, and music. More than 160,000 people take part in the festival, especially for the final day of the carnival where the performers dance through the city to finish at the foot of the Morro de Arica.
Santiago a Mil
This cultural festival held in the capital city of Chile is the largest arts festival in the country, with music, art, and theatre shows available across the city at low prices. Performers come from across the world to take part in this three-week festival during January. There is also the opportunity to attend open-air theatre and street shows to experience Santiago’s rich and diverse culture.
Festival de Viña
Similar to Santiago a Mil, the Viña del Mar International Song Festival is a celebration of music and the arts. It is the largest and oldest music festival in all of Latin America, originating in 1960. It is held annually during the third week of February and features some of the most popular artists from all over the world.
Indigenous New Year
The Mapuche New Year is one of the most important dates in the indigenous calendar in Chile. “We Tripantu” means the “return of the sun” and is celebrated on June 23, the winter solstice and shortest day of the year in the Southern Hemisphere. The Mapuche people wait for the rising of the new sun, which they believe brings a renewal of life and rebirth at the start of a New Year. They perform rituals and invoke the spirits of their ancestors with ancient dance and song.
New Year Celebrations
As with every country, Chile has its own set of unique traditions to welcome the new year. The shops are crowded with yellow underwear, which many Chileans wear in the hopes that it will bring them passion or fertility in the new year, while others put a $1,000 Chilean peso note in their right shoe to bring them riches and prosperity. As the countdown to midnight begins, Chileans prepare for the 12 Uvas ritual where they eat a grape for every chime of the clock at midnight, a tradition which comes from Spain. However, the best place to celebrate New Year in Chile is in the sea town of Valparaíso, where spectacular fireworks light up the dock at midnight.
Katie is a student from Exeter University where she is studying English Literature and Spanish. This year she is interning with Chile Today as part of her year abroad in Latin America. She believes in the importance of a global newsroom which spreads the news of the world to every corner and gives voice to the people.