Guatemala Travel Planner - (Page 14)

Semana Santa is one of the country's myriad festivals. Festivals Galore (flying pole dance), during which two men-dressed as monkeys and fortified by plenty of alcohol-climb to the top of the 100-ft. pole, tie themselves to a rope attached to the top and wrapped around their body, then jump, spinning to the ground (Dec. 13-21). S emana S anta i n A nti g ua Planning visits around a festival is the icing on the cake of the perfect visit to Guatemala. And such planning is not hard to do, for there are dozens of occasions to celebrate a local patron saint or a major historic event, observed with colorful pageantry. Traditional fiestas include marimba music, fireworks, folk dancing and liberal consumption of alcohol. The following is just a sampling from a full calendar countrywide: Pilgrimage of the Black Christ, honored with a procession, traditional dances and bullfights, takes place in Esquipulas near the Honduras border (Jan. 15). Fiesta Nacional Folklorico Rabina Ajau, held in Coban in the department of Alta Verapaz and one of Mesoamerica's greatest celebrations of Maya culture, features a steady stream of street fairs, concerts, parades and parties (first week in August). All Saints Day & All Souls Day, celebrated all over the country, is a time in which villages call at their cemeteries to decorate family graves with flowers and food offerings. In Santiago Sacatepequez, whose festival takes place in the town cemetery, and Sumpango, local people fly kites-some enormous and taking weeks of work-a tradition born of sending messages to the deceased. Another 14 style of celebration takes place in Todos Santos Cuchumatan, which stages a 2-day celebration of traditional dances, marimba music and rituals. On Nov. 1, the festival starts with a massive, all-day "horse stampede" during which riders- in colorful traditional dress with capes flying-take a drink at the start and finish of each race. On Nov. 2, the action moves to the cemetery, with marimba bands and drink stalls set amongst the graves (Oct. 31-Nov. 2). On the Caribbean coast, the International Garifuna Day takes place in Livingston, a unique town accessible only by water or air. Home to the Garifuna people, descendants of the indigenous Carib and African cultures, Livingston is known for its rich culture of music and dance, and this celebration features unique foods and keeps the drums beating and the dancers dancing to the rhythms of punta (Nov. 26). Festival of Santo Tomas, mixing Mayan and Christian traditions, is held in Chichicastenango in honor of its patron saint. It's a week-long festival ending with several big bang events on Dec. 21, with the parading of Santo Tomas in festive garb; fireworks; and typical dances with participants in decorative dress and masks. The big event is the Palo Volador With the solemn processions and carpets of patterned flower petals, pine needles and sawdust, Holy Week is a particularly traditional and brilliant time to be in Antigua, whose Semana Santa celebrations are exceeded in size and scope only by those in Seville, Spain. For seven days, the street pageantry of the penitent includes men donning multicolored robes and costumes, bearing their saints on platforms, followed by musicians, and men burning copal incense. The Thursday before Good Friday is the best time to view the flower-carpets (alfombras). On Good Friday there is a re-enactment of Pontius Pilate and his Roman soldiers in uniform and on horseback arresting Christ and leading him to his crucifixion, accompanied by a marching band and clouds of incense. Following a tradition in place since the 16th century, several prisoners in the city jail are chosen to bear heavy crosses during processions. The largest processions are held on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Palm Sunday. Similar religious processions are part of the important festival on July 25, the feast day of St. James, Antigua's patron saint. Semana Santa, the final week of Lent, is a moveable feast that falls the week before Easter: March 20-26 in 2016, April 9-15 in 2017. Booking far in advance is essential.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Guatemala Travel Planner

A Colonial Heritage
The Living Maya of the Highlands
El Mundo Maya
Call of the Wild
An Appetite for the Arts
Land of Active Adventures
Tasting Guatemala
Festivals Galore
Marvelous Markets
Marvelous Markets

Guatemala Travel Planner