Peru offers an unbelievable synthesis of festivals and celebrations varying from Christian traditions to ancestral rites, carnivals, dance contests, and grape harvest parties.
Peruvians like to celebrate life. The country has around 3,000 festivals every year, all reflecting Peru's unique culture and personality. Celebrations are colorful, musical, spiritual, and show a peculiar blend of ancient cultures with Christian traditions.
Peru's Tourism Board coordinator for Asia Pacific, Rosana Guinea, says that these festivals are often a highlight for visitors. "There is a festival or celebration almost every day somewhere in Peru, so it is worth taking the time to research to find out what is going on in advance. Observing and being part of these festivals is a great way to absorb authentic Peruvian culture," she said.
The first half of 2011 is packed with cultural festivals. Christmas celebrations continue right through to January with the Epiphany in Huancavelica, one of the most popular celebrations in Peru. During this time parades representing the journey of the three wise men occur in every town and children are once again showered with gifts and lollies.
Later in January, dance lovers from all over the world congregate in Trujillo for the Marinera Festival, creating a colorful spectacle regarded as a national competition of grace and elegance.
Carnivals and partying continue into February, with parades in traditional dresses, folklore dances, singing, food tasting and Carnival Queen Contests cheering up the atmosphere in every little town including Apurimac, Ayacucho, Cajamarca, Huanchaco, Madre Dios, and Ucayali.
The Negro Summer Festival, an Afro-Peruvian dance contest at the end of February is also a highlight. Streets erupt with music, parades and wine/food fairs for this festival in the district of El Carmen Ica.
The Grape Harvest Festivals in Lima and Ica and the Easter Christian Celebrations brighten up March. Also in this month, the world famous surfing Championships in Chicama is popular for those looking for some contemporary entertainment. In April, the Peruvian Paso Horse Festival in Mamacona, held at the foot of the pre-Inca Pachacamac oracle, is also not to be missed.
In many of Peru's festivals observers will be amazed by how Christian celebrations are oddly blended with Inca and Pagan rituals and the El Señor de Qoyllur Ritti, held every May-June in the District of Ocongate Cusco, is a good example of these mix traditions. The festival is a pilgrimage to Mount Sinaqara, a holy mountain from pre-Inca times, in homage to Corpus Christi and the ancient Cult of the Sun. The celebrations include a procession, dancing performances, fireworks, and an adorable handmade miniature market, known as "alasitas".
The winter solstice at the end of June is also celebrated with both Christian and Inca cultural traditions, with the Festivity of St. John in the Amazon region, and the Festival of the Sun - Inti Raymi- in Cusco.
The Festival of the Sun has become one of the most popular festivals in South America, and is held at the impressive Sacsayhuaman fortress (1 mile from Cusco). In the beautiful settings this ceremony is a prayer for prosperity that emulates the communicating of the original ancient rites and the sacrifice of two Llamas.
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