To kick off the New Year, we are bringing you our latest series documenting all the cultural and traditional events taking place throughout the year. Last time, we brought you every happening event from January to December in Costa Rica. This time around, we’re going to let you in on the top Guatemalan festivals you don’t want to miss.
You might be participating in a Spanish immersion program, interning abroad to gain experience in your field of study, or taking part of our semester abroad but no matter the reason you need to be in Guatemala, know what’s happening when you’ll be there with this event calendar that will give you all the details you need to make the most of your time in this Central American gem.
El Cristo Negro
January 15th sees a pilgrimage of people from all over Latin America to El Cristo Negro which resides at the Basilica of Esquipulas in the city of Esquipulas. Since the 1500’s, numerous miracles have been attributed to the structure and pilgrims show their gratitude and respect with small plaques or silver images of specific body parts believed to be healed by El Cristo Negro. Should you want to determine the healing powers of this statue for yourself, or just witness the devout annual pilgrimage, this event would be of interest to you.
Coffee Harvest Celebration
Guatemala is renowned for exporting some of the best coffee in the world. Annually, the town of Frajianes celebrates the commencement of the harvest with a two-day festival beginning on February 2nd. Coinciding with the Coffee Harvest Celebration are two religious’ observations; therefore, the celebration begins with the procession for the Virgen de Candelaria and ends on February 4th along with the celebration of El Sagrado Corazon de Jesus. Throughout the two days, you can expect parades, traditional music and dance, staple foods, and of course, coffee!
Desfile de Bufos
College students have always been the driving force of change, and it’s no different in Guatemala. On the Friday before Good Friday, usually landing in the month of March, the Desfile de Bufos (or Parade of Fools), sees thousands of hooded University students taking to the streets in parade like fashion to mock the government.
Holy Week is the most highly celebrated event in the country and has made a reputation for itself as being one of the grandest in the world. Although celebrated in every major city and town, tourists and locals prefer to flock to the most pronounced processions in the city of Antigua. With elaborate floats, creative alfombras and traditional recreations, it’s one of the major events that will have you fully immersed in Guatemalan culture.
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This week at #MaximoGuatemala we experienced the celebrations of #SemanaSanta filled with religious processions, colorful "alfombras", and candlelight vigils, attracting travelers from all over the world. . . #MaximoNivel #Antigua #Guatemala #EasterWeek #ᴇᴀsᴛᴇʀ2018 #travelstoke #visitguatemala #passionpassport #travel #natgeo #tlpicks #LiveTravelChannel #perhapsyouneedalittleguatemala #MaximoAbroad #TakeMeAbroad #pictureoftheday #semanasanta
Dia del Trabajo
Guatemalans sure know how to reward themselves for all their hard work throughout the year! With parades and parties happening throughout the country, you’ll be sure to find the biggest celebrations taking place right in the capital with the most elaborate parade hosted by the General Workers Union.
Turtle Nesting Season
No major holidays or events take place in Guatemala for the month of June, but nature doesn’t let the excitement stop. June introduces high season for turtle nesting! On the Pacific coast, you can spot turtles making their way to the sandy shores to lay the next generation of sea turtles. It’s one of the better months to enroll in a sea turtle conservation program to witness this phenomenal event in Guatemala.
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For our #volunteer programs to be successful, we always collaborate with the local communities to make sure our efforts have a long-lasting impact. #MaximoGuatemala #MaximoNivel #TurtleConservation #VolunteerAbroad #Volunteers #AnimalCare #Turtles #Turtle #Conservation #Guatemala #TakeMeAbroad #MaximoAbroad
Coban’s Indigenous Festival
One of the greatest celebrations of Mayan culture is La Fiesta Nacional Indígena de Guatemala, which takes place during the last two weeks of July–sometimes rolling over into early August. It is one of the most spectacular cultural festivals showcasing native traditions that have existed for thousands of years in the city of Coban. Street fairs, parades, concerts, and parties are had throughout the celebrations, and it’s the perfect opportunity to learn and participate in Mayan culture.
La Fiesta Nacional Indígena de Guatemala
Or, Day of the Assumption, pays tribute to the patron saint of Guatemala City on August 15th. Celebrations and parades take place across the country, but the biggest festival is held in the capital. Here, you will even find the famous palo volador ceremony where men swing upside down while attached to a central pole.
Along with their neighboring Central American countries, Guatemala celebrates its independence on September 15th when they joined forces with Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras to overthrow Spanish rule.
Commemoration of the 1944 Revolution
A day of pride for the civilians of Guatemala takes place on October 20th in Guatemala City. The year 1944 saw peaceful protests demanding change from the Ubico government. By the time the police and army turned on its civilians with unjust arrests, tear gas bombs, and open shootings to oppress demonstrators, there were over 50,000 campaigners and supporters urging Ubico to resign. The resignation took place on July 1st, and by October 20th, students and workers helped young military officers to take control of Guatemala City resulting in a new constitution to be adopted, and a liberal democratic president to be elected via open elections early the following year.
Dia de los Muertos
Two national events are held during Dia de los Muertos on November 1st and 2nd–Skach Koyl and Festival de Barriletes Gigantes.
Skach Koyl is a “drunken horse race” which takes place in the town of Todos Santos on November 1st. All the riders are pretty clearly inebriated, with some even having to have their hands tied to the saddle to keep from falling off. More than a race, it’s a spectacle for the locals with some fun, yet careless, horseplay.
Festival de Barriletes Gigantes truly honors the dead with elaborate kites flown over cemeteries. The patterns and colors depict familial stories and messages, and act as important cultural symbols. People from all over the world flock to Guatemala during this sacred holiday to witness the festivities and cultural traditions.
Quema del Diablo
In preparation of the arrival of the new year, this annual tradition is held on December 7th to make space to the blessings of the year to come– huge bonfires are held in the streets and the citizens of Guatemala feed it trash, household items, and anything they wish to let go of in the new year. It is believed that this celebration provides a needed cleanse for the upcoming holidays.
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We couldn’t miss the yearly “#QuemaDelDiablo” (“#BurningOfTheDevil”) at #MaximoGuatemala. A symbolical tradition that started in the 18th century, held every December 7th at 6:00 pm sharp, where based on local Catholic beliefs the fire serves as a purifying element to clear the way for the feast of Saint Mary. #MaximoNivel #CulturalImmersion #Guatemala #Antigua #StudyAbroad #VolunteerAbroad #TeachAbroad #LearnSpanish #SpanishImmersion #TEFL #TEFLers #InternAbroad #MaximoAbroad #TakeMeAbroad
Tribute to Santo Tomas
This week-long celebration (December 13-21) sees a mesh of native and Christian traditions centered around the famous church in Chichicastenango. Food, music and dance lead up to the main event on December 21st where palo volador participants make their way back to introduce their traditional ceremony while flying around a central pole, upside down, and bound by their ankles.
Mayan New Year
Guatemala also celebrates the New Year based on the Mayan calendar which only contains 260 days. Therefore, the celebration date changes every year, and is sometimes held twice during our one calendar year. May celebrations take place around Lake Atitlan.