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September 16 2021

Folk festivals that celebrate Chile's culture


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What better way to get to know a country than through its traditions and folklore? And the fastest and most fun manner to do it is by celebrating its traditional festivals.

Chile knows this too well. It celebrates almost everything about its culture. Here are the most distinctive and particular festivities that highlight its customs and popular beliefs.

Chile has a celebration for everything

A Chilean tradition is to celebrate as much as possible. It has festivities of all kinds, some unique in the world; the day of the completo (the national version of the hot dog), the Viña del Mar International Song Festival, the days for the chacarero and churrasco sandwiches, as well as for the terremoto (the cocktail, not the earthquake, of course); all typical Chilean celebrations.

Even dogs have their national day in Chile.

So, the best way to get to know Chile is through its festivals because they are the summarized versions of its habits, social practices, and traditions. Folk celebrations, in particular, are ideal to see the best that Chilean culture has to offer in one place.

Here is a sample list of typical and unique Chilean festivals for you to start enjoying.

What does Chile celebrate?

Its history

 

National Holidays

Every country celebrates Independence Day, but not all of them do it in the Spring. And that is what's fun about Chile's Fiestas Patrias, which overlaps with the beginning of this season, making it one of the most beloved festivities by nationals and foreigners.

The entire nation dresses up in white, blue, and red in the week of September 18. Although each region and town has its way of celebrating, it is common to see fondas (provisional tents set up only for Independence Day celebrations), barbecues, red wine, and empanadas, as well as cueca dances and pallas competitions from north to south.

Each city and town in Chile has a party to celebrate Independence Day. According to the National Tourism Service (Sernatur), some of the most notable are:

  • Fonda Chinchorro in Arica
  • Fiesta de la Pampilla in Coquimbo
  • Chilenidad Week in Santiago
  • Fondas del Parque O'Higgins in Santiago.
  • Fiesta Criolla at the Sporting Club in Viña del Mar.
  • Fisherman's Bonfire in Valparaíso
  • Fiesta de la Chilenidad in Temuco
  • Fonda de la Familia in Valdivia
  • Los Glaciares Challenge in Aysén
  • Chilenidad Festivity in Puerto Natales

Naval Glory Day

Every May 21, the country remembers the tragic outcome of the naval battle of Iquique, which marked a before and after in Chile's involvement in the Pacific War in the 19th century. 

From Navy parades in different coastal cities to small celebrations, it is a time for family gatherings. Schools across the country organize events to pay their respects to the sailors who died in combat and the sinking of the corvette Esmeralda. 

Since it is a legal holiday, thousands of Chileans go on vacation. It is also when the President of the Republic makes his traditional national account speech from Congress in Valparaíso.

Its wine

 
Grape harvest festivals

Wine is one of Chile's main export products and its pride and joy.

Wine valleys cover Chile, from the Elqui Valley in the north to Malleco Valley in the south. Their particular microclimates facilitate the cultivation of different grape varieties, says Chile Travel. 

Wineries and vineyards in each valley celebrate their harvests between February and April each year. It is an excellent opportunity to get a close-up look at how Chilean wine is made and taste delicious food with a good glass of red or white wine.

However, due to the pandemic, it is expected that this year's harvests will be limited in number. Therefore, be sure to check the wineries' websites and winemakers' associations for more information on these events.

While you wait, why don't you check out:

Its indigenous heritage

 
Tapati

Every year, in February, the inhabitants of Easter Island take two weeks off to celebrate their culture. The most anticipated events are the competition between clans and the triathlon on the Rano Raraku volcano.

Andean Carnival Con la Fuerza del Sol

It takes place in February and is one of the largest carnivals in Chile. Dance troupes, musicians, and people from Andean communities in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, and Peru gather to dance for more than 15 hours across the city of Arica.

We Tripantu

It is the celebration of the Mapuche New Year and takes place every June 24. These indigenous people commemorate the beginning of their year according to the lunar calendar with several ceremonies of religious significance.

Its religious influence

 
La Tirana Festival 

It is a religious festival that honors the Virgin of Carmen every July in the town of La Tirana, in the Tarapacá region. It is the most renowned of all the celebrations in Andean communities in northern Chile that mark this occasion, says Memoria Chilena.

Feast of Our Lady of Andacollo

Every December 25 and 26, communities in the Coquimbo region venerate this virgin, also called the "Queen of Copper," given the importance of this metal for the domestic economy. It is one of the most massive celebrations in the country and a faithful reflection of its culture, especially the Chinese dances, which were declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, says Chile Travel.

Its food

 
Antofa en su salsa

Every March, this culinary festival seeks to rescue traditions and practices in the Antofagasta Region. It invites food lovers, chefs, and restaurants to demonstrate their skills by cooking local recipes.

Chancho Muerto Festival

It is one of the largest winter festivals in Chile and takes place in Talca, in the Maule Region. It commemorates an old pig-slaughtering tradition that would take place every August in farming homes around the country.

Chilote Costumbrista Festival

This celebration dates to 1979 and is one of the most significant gastronomic events in the Chiloé archipelago and in Chilean Patagonia. It usually takes place in February and offers participants tastings of typical dishes such as curanto, handicrafts, and local music.

Encuentro Costumbrista de Cochrane

In February, Cochrane is the center of one of the oldest fests in Patagonia and in the Aysén region, featuring hundreds of roasted lamb "al palo," a special preparation in Chilean Patagonia.

Its traditions

 
Valdivian Week

Every city in Chile celebrates its foundation, but one version that stands out for its grandeur is Valdivia's. 

Valdivian Week includes music recitals, folk handicraft exhibitions, and fireworks on the night of the festival's last day, known as Valdivian Night, and a parade of themed floats.

International Rodeo and Folklore Festival of Puerto Ibáñez

The Patagonian Jineteadas in Puerto Ibáñez, Aysén Region, is one of the most important festivals in Chilean Patagonia. It's a taming horse competition that gathers Gauchos from all over the region every January.

Punta Arenas Winter Carnival

In July, this festival fills the Magallanes region with music and colors, including a large parade, live music, cultural activities like the Indigenous Expo, sporting events like the Iceman Triathlon, and the world-renowned dip that only the brave dare to take in the cold waters of the Strait of Magellan

Waiting to party

This is just a tiny sample of many traditional festivals that take place in Chile. 

It is worth noting that the COVID-19 pandemic redefined many of these celebrations. Some of them remain suspended until the health emergency is over. 

Therefore, if you want to include them in your travel plans, confirm if they will happen first.

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