Events and festivals in Guatemala
Keep the popular festivals in Guatemala in mind when you plan your travel. That way you will be able to experience the unique and the traditional first-hand. Festivities like the All Saints Day of Santiago de Sacatepéquez, or the indigenous folk festivals are well worth seeing.
Of all the events that take place in Guatemala, there are certain festivals that you should not miss. The tradition, the costumes, the music and the Guatemalan folklore will provide you with a different and unique experience. Take a look at the following festivities and, when planning your journey, choose the one you like the most.
January - New Year
In January, as in the rest of the world, Guatemalans celebrate the New Year. For the inhabitants of this country this date is a reason for family celebrations. The most curious thing about the New Year in Guatemala is the burning of dolls, which is a way of eliminating all the bad things from the year that is ending. The dolls symbolise everything that you want to leave behind in order to enter the new year on a good footing. Of course, there are also firework displays and celebrations with music and dancing throughout the country.
February - Huelga de Dolores
In February the popular festivals in Guatemala are divided into various dates: the 20th of February is Marimba Day, this musical instrument is the symbol of the country. The 26th of February is the day for celebrating the National Cultural Heritage. This day celebrates the first official government visit to Tikal, a Mayan city of great importance, which took place in 1848.
Another event in Guatemala which stands out because of its originality is the Huelga de Dolores (The Strike of Pain), which is a carnival parade. The carnival parades through the streets of the historic centre of Guatemala City and groups of hooded students shout protest songs against the government.
March and April - Holy week
Festivities in Guatemala for the months of March and April turn to Holy Week. Guatemalans celebrate this Christian event with a great deal of fervour. They cover the streets with flowers and bring their saints out on processions.
In Chichicastenango the processions are as impressive as those in Old Guatemala, but they stand out because the native inhabitants are dressed in their traditional costume. The mass is celebrated in the Quiché language, and is enveloped in Mayan incense and ancestral prayers.
May - Holy Cross
From the 1st to the 20th of May the festival in honour of the Holy Cross and the Child of Atocha is celebrated in Amatitlán. This festival has different social and cultural events, such as the folk dances. From the 17th to the 21st in Patzún and Chimaltenango there are various festivities, for example, the Festival in honour of San Bernardino de Sena and the Corpus Cristi.
June - Dance of the Giants
The dance of the Giants in Antigua is one of the Guatemalan festivals celebrated during the month of June. It consists of a folk dance performed by giants and figures with oversized heads who take over the cathedral square in Antigua Guatemala. According to tradition, the dance is announced to the inhabitants on the day of Corpus Christi.
July - National Indigenous Festival
One of the most traditional popular Guatemalan festivals is the National Indigenous Festival of Rabin Ajaw. Equally in Verapaces as in Cobán, the national indigenous queen of Rabin Ajaw is chosen and crowned. The whole country takes part in this traditional festival which is considered to be the most important Mayan festival in Guatemala.
Also in July the Baile del Palo Volador (the Dance of the Flying Stick) is celebrated in Cubulco, which coincides with the festival in honour of Saint James the Apostle. The dancers, dressed in black, dance around a stick which is 30 metres high, and hang from it upside down. This is a celebration that you really shouldn’t miss.
August - National Folklore Festival of El Paab’anc
In August, one of the events celebrated in Guatemala is the National Folklore Festival of El Paab’anc in Cobán. This traditional Q’eqchi festival is a religious celebration of the indigenous inhabitants of Alta Verapaz. It is a Mayan festival where candles are lit, offerings are made and traditional dances are performed.
September - Independence Day
On the 15th of September, Guatemala celebrates its Independence Day, which took place on this same day in 1821.
October - Saint Francis of Assisi
Within popular festivals in Guatemala, October welcomes the festivals in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi in Totonicapán. There are also various social, cultural and sporting events, as well as folk dances.
November - All Saints Day
But without a doubt, the month of November brings one of the most surprising Guatemalan festivals. On All Saints Day, the festival of the Giant Kites is celebrated in Sumpango. This festival is a mixture of tradition, music and colour, where the kites, or giant comets, chase away the bad spirits.
December - Quema del Diablo
Of all the popular festivals in Guatemala, the Quema del Diablo (Burning of the Devil) is a magic-religious event celebrated each year on the 7th of December. Its purpose is to perform a spiritual cleansing by burning paper effigies symbolising the devil.
If you can coincide your travel dates with any of these festivals, you are sure to enjoy both the culture and the traditions of Guatemala.