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Festivities in Cusco 2024
All about festivals in Cusco
Cusco - Perú
Nicole Maxdeo
April 25, 2024

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If you’re planning your stay in ef=”https://magicexperiencesperu.com/blog/travel-guide-to-cusco/”>Cusco, here are the recommended dates:

Table of Contents

January 6th: Bajada de Reyes

The Bajada de Reyes is a celebration in Cusco - Peru that globally signifies the "end" of the December festivities known as Christmas or New Year's. In Cusco, people renowned this festival. It combines well-known religious traditions with the traditional customs of the area regarding Andean culture. This Cusco festival takes place every January 6th and represents the arrival of the famous Three Wise Men to visit Jesus in his manger. One of the most representative festivities in Cusco.

During this celebration, residents adorn the streets of Cusco with colors as they gather to witness the blessing of children in churches before storing them away until the next year. This Cusco festival begins with a procession that traverses the main streets of the city, specifically the historic center. In some villages, there are even traditional dances and foods. In this Cusco festival, we can appreciate the syncretism and union between Andean and Spanish culture.

January 20th: San Sebastián

After the Spaniards arrived, people brought the image of the Saint of the same name to the south of Cusco, where they named San Sebastián, a district in Cusco, in honor of his veneration. This celebration dates back thousands of years. The Inca inhabitants considered this image a protector.With this Cusco festival, we can appreciate the living culture of a district that gathers with typical dances, traditional Chiriuchu food, and Andean drinks like chicha.

During these days of celebration, we can see the colorful plaza of this district adorned with processions and endless dances. The main attractions of these celebrations are the multiple typical dances of the region and the congregation of faithful who, along with chants and prayers, fill this district. We can also see typical dances from the Altiplano region paying tribute to San Sebastián.

The Plaza de San Sebastián is located to the south of the city of Cusco, about 15 minutes from the city center. Come and visit it and discover the best of Cusqueñan traditions. One of the most representative festivities in Cusco.

February 11th: Cusco Carnival

What are carnivals? Well, it's a very ancient Cusco festival, dating back several years. During these days, celebrations take place with dances in the main square of the city, combining Andean and modern elements. This is a cultural manifestation that celebrates various aspects of life such as fertility, gratitude to Pachamama, the beginning of the new Andean year, and the union of communities.

The start of this celebration begins with a parade of various groups that pass through the main streets of the city. Here, participants wear traditional costumes that showcase the cultural diversity of the area. One of the most representative festivities in Cusco.

Compadres and Comadres Celebration

These celebrations occur two Thursdays before Carnivals (the first Thursday for compadres and the second for comadres). This activity contributes to the anticipation and celebration of carnivals, and its peculiarity involves creating dolls representing women and men (either comadres or compadres) that people hang or display outside shops, markets, or even offices. To make them, people use recycled materials, women's/men's clothing, shoes, etc.

After the central day of carnivals, we can also celebrate a "last time" this festival on the 8th or Kacharpari.
A week after carnivals, people celebrate this event in the main square, characterized by playing with water balloons and colorful foam. During this time, they also celebrate yunzas or cortamontes, where people dance around a tree adorned with various gifts.The game consists of knocking down the tree while dancing and singing.

March 24th to 31st: Holy Week

Holy Week in Cusco is a very important festival. It begins on Palm Sunday of each year, with masses and blessings of the popular "little palms" of Holy Week that will protect our homes. On Holy Monday, the patron saint of Cusco, the Lord of the Earthquakes, goes out in procession, where thousands of faithful gather in the Main Square to pay homage to our Patron Saint. 

Good Friday marks the beginning of the Via Crucis, showcasing the different stages of Christ's passion from his sentencing to his crucifixion. Families, during this day, fast until noon and then eat the traditional 12 dishes.

May 3rd: Fiesta de la Cruz or Cruz Velacuy

Cruz Velacuy is a very ancient tradition passed down from generation to generation since ancient times. This is a display of devotion and religious syncretism, as it combines Catholicism with Andean customs. During May 3rd, we can see multiple crosses symbolizing Jesus who gave his life for us, adorned with decorations and candles around the city.

How did the celebration of the crosses in Cusco originate? Many historians indicate that this celebration occurred during the colonial period when the Spanish introduced the celebration of the crosses so that the inhabitants would recognize Jesus Christ as the only deity to worship.
During the 1950 earthquake that struck Cusco, inhabitants clung to the crosses as a symbol of protection. Since then, every May 2nd, people await the vigil of the crosses to be held in temples, churches, and in the homes of the faithful.

May 19th: Lord of Torrechayoc in the city of Cusco

The Lord of Torrechayoc, patron saint of the city of Urubamba, is one of the most popular festivals in Cusco's Sacred Valley. This celebration surprises with its good organization among dancers who gather year after year to dance to this holy Cross. These processions take place from the main square of Urubamba to traverse all the streets of the area.

There are many stories surrounding the origin of the Lord of Torrechayoc. Some affirm that this tradition began in the mid-19th century when a large cross was placed in the snow with the image of this Lord in its center. Some people indicate that several pilgrims from this locality, due to extreme cold, delirated and thought that the cross was speaking to them. The local parish priest heard the comments and, due to the various testimonies, ordered the transfer of the Cross to Urubamba, where it is still worshipped today.

May 26th to 29th: Lord of Qoyllorit'i

People celebrate the Lord of Qoyllorit'i every year in May, continuing a very ancient tradition dating back to a time when snowy mountains still existed. This story comes from our ancestors or grandparents, the Incas, and they knew many things, which is why people now go to the Lord of Qoyllority. Even before, they walked from the city of Cusco to the Lord of Qoyllority, whose name was Sinacara. Why? Because they went to see a star named Qoyllor, that's why we now call it Qoyllority.
We call it Lord or Father Qoyllority; its name comes from the Quechua language: Qoyllur (star) Rit'y (snowy), the Spanish put that name, the original name should be Qoyllur ritin (from the snowy its star).

Many are unaware of the background of the story and believe that people now go to the Lord of Qoylluriti just to dance. These customs have been practiced since the time of their parents, and these parents passed down to their children, then to their grandchildren, this tradition and history, which is why many say. Now you can see two traditions, for example, the Inca tradition within all the nations, they look at the snowy mountains, they hold a meeting in the snowy mountains, but they see the sun father, kneel down, and feel happy, then they go to dance. One of the most representative festivities in Cusco.

May 30th: Cusco Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi, translated to Spanish as "Body of Christ," is a tradition that blends the customs of the people with the various saints they believe in.

During the Inca period, there was no Catholic religion as such; they believed only in deities such as the Sun and the Moon. Years later, the Spanish, who did not believe in these traditions, tried to impose their beliefs of saints, which we now know as Cusco Corpus Christi.

A day before this central day, the saints depart from local churches such as San Sebastián, San Jerónimo, etc., towards the Main Plaza of Cusco to attend the central Mass conducted in Quechua. Afterward, there is a procession of all the Saints and celebrations specific to each comparsa of each Saint.

June 24th: Inti Raymi

Inti Raymi, translated to Spanish as "Festival of the Sun," is an Inca celebration that venerates the Sun god. This Inca deity played an important role during the Inca period as it provided crops, life, and energy for the communities.

After the arrival of the Spanish and their colonization, Catholicism imposed a ban on this festival, which is associated with the beginning of the harvest and the winter solstice. However, some communities managed to maintain it clandestinely until they revitalized and transformed it into a public event in the mid-20th century. One of the most representative festivities in Cusco.

July 15th: Virgin of Carmen - Paucartambo, Pisac, and Huarocondo

The festival of the Virgin of Carmen is very popular in various towns of Cusco such as Paucartambo, Pisac, and Huarocondo. In these localities, during July 14th, 15th, and 16th, celebrations take place with dances and typical foods dedicated to the consecrated Virgin of Carmen.

This festival brings together dances mainly such as Qapaq Qolla, Majeños, and Qapaq Negro, among others. Each dance represents pre-Columbian and colonial eras. It's a festival you definitely shouldn't miss.

August 1st: Pachamama Day

Pachamama or Mother Earth is a central deity in Inca culture as it is the source of everything related to life. During this day, people consider the new Andean year, and they celebrate it through various rituals and ceremonies.

September 14th: Lord of Huanca

The Lord of Huanca is a religious figure located in the district of San Salvador, north of the city of Cusco. According to the history of the area, this image dates back to colonial times as the image of Christ appeared in the cave located very close to the area. Its celebration takes place every September 14th, and during this Cusco festival, groups gather to express their devotion in colorful celebrations.

September 30th: San Jerónimo

Like San Sebastián, San Jerónimo is a district to the south of the city of Cusco, and this district also has a protective Patron Saint. This festival takes place for almost 4 days, during which the image of the Saint travels to the main points of the district, where the faithful await with chants and flowers.
The responsible parties of each comparsa organize this celebration, gathering in traditional "casas de cargos" where they celebrate with the dancers.

November 1st: All Saints' Day

This Cusco festival alludes to the celebration of the souls that departed with the hope of eternal rest. During this date, many of the niches in cemeteries are adorned with offerings, which are usually the tastes or cravings that the deceased had in life: soft drinks, beers, foods, etc.

Originally, people gave this celebration to show respect for the souls but from a religious perspective, which is why it is called All Saints' Day, to honor the blessed and canonized saints who enjoy eternal life with their Creator.

December 24th: Santurantikuy

The famous traditional Christmas fair, Santurantikuy, is celebrated annually on Christmas Eve, December 24th. This highly anticipated day for Cusqueños carries a high degree of history and tradition, which we will now tell you about.

The tradition dates back to the 16th century when noble Cusco families and monasteries purchased the popular "arcas." Thus, the Spanish colonizers, seeking to evangelize the indigenous people of the time, imposed the name of this fair, which comes from Quechua "sale of saints."

Among the things sold at Santurantikuy, ceramic representations of the newborn Jesus Christ stand out, known at the time as Niño Manuelito. Why Manuel? Well, it comes from the variation of "Emmanuel," another name by which baby Jesus is known in the Catholic tradition. From this custom, the Cusqueños adopted representations of Niño Manuelito as their own and dressed him as an Inca king, a fact that unleashed the fury of the Catholic Church.

Ready to explore your vacation dates? Don't miss out on these festivities and celebrate alongside the locals these ancestral traditions.

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