Christmas in the Andes

Even though the majority of Peruvians are Catholic, the Andean culture is still very present in people’s beliefs. This results in a blending of cultural and religious mythology that makes the culture very rich in traditions and holidays.

Cuzco celebrates Christmas with Santuranticuy – one of the biggest arts and crafts fairs in Peru. Preparations for this fair start six months before Chirstmas. Hundreds of artisans gather in and around the main square with traditional crafts creating a very picturesque atmosphere. Some camp out the night before to guarantee a good spot to sell their wares.This is one among many popular celebrations which show the mixture of two cultures bringing together saint images and Andean themes such as Apus (spirits of the mountains) and la Pachamama (mother earth).

Santuranticuy means “Saints Sale” in the Quechua language since the fair sold only saints images in its beginnings. Nowadays you can find much more variety such as ceramics, textiles, silver work, paintings, leather work, among other hand crafts which are sold in stalls or blankets along the archways around the main and surrounding plazas.

Dancers, musicians, and food vendors add to the celebration, so If you are able to spend Christmas Eve in Cuzco don’t miss this full day of local color which goes on until the moon comes out.

After a day of shopping and celebrating, families go back home to prepare Christmas dinner which includes hot chocolate and Paneton (fruitcake). This is eaten all through December, but the main course is Turkey with Arabic rice, mashed apples and salad. It will depend on each family tradition but these dishes are standard fare. At midnight, fireworks will color the sky to celebrate the birth of Jesus. After opening the gifts everyone will go to bed to prepare for the next day when families will visit their loved ones.

Tips:

  • If you stay to the end, you can find bargains.
  • December is already a rainy season so be sure you have a poncho or an umbrella.
  • If you aren’t able to spend Christmas with a local family, I recommend you to go for dinner at Pachapapa. It is located in the artistic district of San Blas where you can enjoy Christmas on their patio with live traditional Andean harp.


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