Festivals in Peru and Public Holidays

Calendar of Peruvian Holidays and Important Festivals

Festivals in Peru and Public Holidays

Peru has a wide diversity of festivals, public holidays and traditions that are the cultural heritage of the country. An endless amount of events and festivals throughout the whole year give color to the daily life of the Peruvian people. Some festivals are national, others are regional or only celebrated in small villages high up in the mountains or deep the jungle. Most Festivals in Peru are linked to the catholic calendar, the ancient mythology or to important agricultural dates in Peru. Typical dances, acts of religious devotion, food, music and drinks are the important elements of each festival in Peru.

Date
Peruvian National Holiday or Traditional Festival
January 1 New Year’s Day (Año Nuevo)
Early February Virgin of Candelaria or Mamacha Candelaria
February Carnival (Carnaval)
March/April Easter Week (Semana Santa)
Easter Monday Lord of the Earthquakes (Señor de los Temblores)
May 1 Labor Day (Día del Trabajador)
May/June Corpus Christi
June 24 Festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi)
July 15-18 The Virgin of Carmen (Mamacha Carmen)
July 28/29 Independence Day (Fiestas Patrias)
August 30 St. Rose of Lima (Dia de Santa Rosa de Lima)
October 8 Battle of Angamos (Combate de Angamos)
October 18, 19, 28 Lord of the Miracles (El Señor de los Milagros)
November 1, 2 All Saints’ Day (Día de Todos los Santos), Day of the Death (Dia de los Muertos)
December 8 Immaculate Conception (Inmaculada Concepción)
December 25, 24 Christmas Eve (Noche Buena), Christmas Day (Navidad)

Carnival - Across Peru

Carnival - Across Peru

Like all of Latin America, Carnaval (Carnival), held annually throughout February across Peru, is one of the country’s most significant and lively events. The Carnavales in the Peruvian highlands are joyful and cheerful

Celebrations typically revolve around typical dancers dressed in elaborate costumes and masks representing spiritual and religious beings, plus festivities held in the main square of all towns and cities across the country. Plenty of food and drink is prepared, while water balloons become a weapon used between revellers – so you might find you get very wet during this festival!

The Virgin of Candelaria - Mamacha Candelaria, Puno

Festival Virgin of Candelaria

For the first weeks of February, the highland town of Puno becomes the Folk Capital of the Americas. During the 18 days over which this Peruvian festival is held, 200 groups of musicians and dancers gather to celebrate the Mamacha Candelaria or the Virgin of Candelaria. This festival is celebrated across the continent, although Puno in Peru and Copacabana hosts the liveliest and largest of all across the border in Bolivia.

The celebrations begin when the first procession of devotees arrives at the Santuario de la Virgen la Candelaria and follows with various celebrations of Mass, extensive banquets and firework displays. February 12 is the central date of the celebrations.

Señor de los Temblores - The Lord of the Earthquakes, Cusco

The Lord of the Earthquakes, Cusco

Ever since 1,650 - when the faithful people claim that an oil painting of Christ on the Cross held off a devastating earthquake rattling the city of Cuzco, the locals have been rendering homage to the image Taitacha Temblores, aka the Lord of the Earthquakes.

The festivities take place on Easter Monday against the backdrop of Easter Week in the city of Cuzco. This celebration is of particular interest because it allows you to glimpse the fusion of Andean religions and Christianity.

Corpus Christi - Cusco

Corpus Christi Festival Cusco Peru

The traditional festival of Corpus Christi is commemorated across the whole country, but it’s certainly most impressive in Cusco. Corpus Christi is celebrated sixty days after Easter Sunday, so the exact date varies each year.

Before the celebrations begin, twelve typical dishes are prepared and consumed, including cuy (guinea pig), chicha (typical local beer) and bread. The next day, fifteen statues of saints and virgins are carried into the cathedral of Cusco from their parishes surrounding the city and followed by huge crowds of worshippers.

The Festival of the Sun - Inti Raymi, Cusco

The Festival of the Sun Inti Raymi

One of the most extensive and most impressive celebrations held in the country, the Inti Raymi festival or Festival of the Sun, has its roots in the Inca tradition of worshipping the Sun God, Inti. It's held annually on the date of the Winter Solstice, on June 24. The central part of the day takes place at the Ruins of Sacsahuaman, beautiful natural scenery 2 km from Cusco.

Thousands of revellers descend on the former Inca capital of Cusco to celebrate the return of the Sun. The ceremony starts earlier the same day at the Koricancha (the Temple of the Sun, in Cusco), followed by more celebrations on the Plaza de Armas (or Huacaypata, as it was called in Inca times).

The Virgin of Carmen - Mamacha Carmen, Paucartambo

The Virgin of Carmen Festival

Four hours from Cusco, in the town of Paucartambo, thousands of devotees hold festivals in honour of the Virgen of Carmen, known locally as Mamacha Carmen, patron saint of the mestizo population. The festivities take place between July 15 and 18 every year

The gathering is held in the main square of Paucartambo, where troupes of musicians play their instruments while richly dressed choirs sing in Quechua. The setting gives way to a series of ingenious choreographies that portray events in Peruvian history. The dance troupes are masked to represent mythical beings and different cultures from across Peru, who take to the streets to accompany the Mamacha Carmen.

The Lord of the Miracles - El Señor de los Milagros, Lima

Señor de los milagros Festival

Gathering one of the largest processions in the world, the festival of El Señor de los Milagros or the Lord of the Miracles is held in Lima on October 18, 19 and 28, with a procession on each day.

The festival dates back to the 17th-century. A slave from Angola drew on the walls of his hut, the image of Christ. An earthquake struck soon after. All the houses in the village were destroyed, except for the hut of the slave, whose image on the wall was intact.

This event resulted in the formation of a cult, who worshipped this image. Festivities continue these days, with worshippers of the Lord of the Miracles having grown into their thousands.

Día de los Muertos - All Saints Day, across the country

Día de los Muertos All Saints Day

Although better known as a festival celebrated in Mexico, the Día de los Muertos is when Peruvians celebrate their dead. Many attend Mass, followed by a trip to the cemetery, where flowers and even picnics are shared with their deceased family members. The atmosphere of the day is jovial and reflects a keen desire to venerate the dead – an idea seen throughout the Andean culture.

One of the most interesting places to spend the Día de los Muertos in Peru is La Arena's village, near Piura. Here, families who have lost a young child take candied sweets, doughnuts and other sweet treats called “Angelitos” (“angels”) to hand out to other children from the village. The night of November 1, these families then held a vigil in the cemetery.

Christmas - Navidad, across Peru

Christmas Navidad across Peru

Christmas was adopted by the Andean people following the arrival of the Spanish and remained an important national holiday to this day. Homes and churches are decorated with Nativity scenes, which can be bought at the market of Santuranticuy, held every December 24 in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco. These Nativity scenes are kept on display until January 6 and La Bajada de los Reyes (the arrival of the three wise men).

In and around the craft city of Ayacucho, you can also find Nativity scenes carved in local Huamanga stones and carved gourds called "burilados”. In Cusco, Christmas Eve or Noche Buena is the night when people exchange gifts. In addition, families get together to eat holiday food such as turkey or chicken, while they enjoy paneton (panettone) with hot chocolate.