We Tripantu: What does the Mapuche new year mean?

We Tripantu is the Mapuche celebration of the new year. This year, it falls on June 21. And, for the first time, it is a national holiday.

 On June 21, the Mapuche celebrate We Tripantu. It begins on the night of the winter solstice, the shortest night of the year, and it celebrates the days becoming longer.

 According to Mapuche International Link, We Tripantu is “participating together with nature in the renovation and emergence of our lives. Humans, as components of nature, make this life renovation ceremony theirs and their family’s.”

 The celebration starts the day before, right before the sun sets. People from every age range get together and say prayers in Mapudungún. Families then gather at their rucas (homes), tell stories and legends, and enjoy traditional meals, such as muday, catuto, sopaipillas, and mote.

Children also play awar kuden, a traditional game, played with broad beans, while singing a song for good luck. Whoever wins the game, gets to keep an object from the loser. Kids usually offer up their toys.

In the early hours of the morning, people then bathe in rivers or creeks, to “receive the water that will allow them to purify their body and spirit,” according to Mapuche Nation. The water takes away bad spirits, disease, and bad thoughts. They then go back to their rucas before the sun rises.

Once the sun comes up, a new ceremony begins, in which people dance around the rucas and play traditional instruments, dancing as the sun begins to light up the day. They also perform a Llellipun, which is a connection ritual with the spirits of nature and their ancestors, to whom they thank for another year of life and ask for help preparing for the upcoming cycle. 

Children also hit fruit tree trunks – especially those to trees that didn’t produce much in the preceding year – to wake the sap for the new cycle.

Watch this (Spanish) documentary on We Tripantu

Other rituals

Other rituals include the Katan, a ceremony in which little girls get their ears pierced, which symbolizes their new role as women.

There is also the Misawün, a ceremony in which two people eat from the same plate, in order to commemorate their friendship or bond as two individuals.

And, lastly, there is the Akutun, in which grandfathers pass their names or their ancestors names onto the boys of the family.

Due to the pandemic, the government asked indigenous communities to be cautious when celebrating We Tripantu, and social gatherings will be reduced to a minimum this year. For example, the Araucanía Regional Health’s Secretary’s Office (SEREMI) tweeted a video, asking people to celebrate with close family and keep their distance when performing the traditional rituals.

This year, We Tripantu became an official, national holiday, after President Sebastián Piñera promulgated the designating law last week. This makes June 24 the National Indigenous Communities Holiday (which previously fell on October 12, Columbus Day).

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