Guatemala is a land of predominantly small area festivals and larger national holidays, many of which are rooted in religious traditions. Mayan religions and traditions continue to remain strong within the indigenous population and are often intertwined with Catholic tendencies. Many of Guatemala's towns have a representative "Cofradia", which is a town-elected group of men and women who are responsible for caring for the religious icons that represent the saints of their respective village. This tradition shows the melding of Catholicism and traditional Mayan religious practices. Traditional dances also often display a mix of Mayan tradition and the Iberian and Moorish influences that date back to the arrival of the Spanish colonists. Along Guatemala's eastern shore, the African roots of the Garifuna people tend to make their way into the traditional dances that characterize their holidays and fiestas.
Small village festivals are celebrated around the country and throughout the year, meaning you may be lucky enough to catch one during your visit. You can expect a lot of fanfare during Guatemala holidays and festivals, and more often than not, you should be prepared for fireworks. One can imagine that accidents do happen when you consider the copious amounts of "El Boj" that are typically imbibed. Alcohol consumption is quite common during fiestas, and boj is a strong drink that also goes by the name of Guaro or Venado. Typically known as well as "white lightning", Guaro made from sugar cane. It is quite strong and varies in quality. As far as food goes, a popular dish at fiestas is known as "Sak ik". A traditional ceremonial meal, Sak ik is based around turkey and an accompanying white sauce. Finally, you can't have a good fiesta without some music. You will commonly see the marimba employed in village fiestas, as well as other instruments such as the woodwind chirimia and, of course, drums.
Some national holidays in Guatemala are like those of North America, only with different celebrations. New Years Day is celebrated most commonly by wearing new clothes in the hopes that this will bring luck into the new year. One of the more celebrated national Guatemala holidays is Independence Day, which falls on September 15. The whole country embraces this celebration with dances, the customary fireworks, and parades. In the city of Quetzaltenango, you will find the largest Independence Day celebration. New Year's Eve is one of the noisier Guatemala holidays, with fireworks ripping throughout the whole of the country. Song and dance often compliment a rather crazy tradition in which "Toritos", or men wearing a cage of explosives, dance through the crowd while setting off their fireworks. Leading up to Christmas, you can find the town fair in Chichicastenango to be a fun affair. Traditional music and dances help to celebrate the coming holiday season. Quite like you would expect in the United States, many of the national and religious holidays often result in the closing of government agencies, as well as banks and schools.
The king of all Holidays in Guatemala is Semana Santa,
or Holy Week. Celebrated throughout Latin America, Semana
Santa is a collection of religious processions and plays
that depict the Crucifixion and subsequent Resurrection
of Jesus. One of the more tourist-friendly holidays in
Guatemala, you will find the most famous Holy Week celebrations
in Antigua. "Alfombras",
or rugs, that consist of interwoven flowers, plants and
pine straw, cover the streets and are quite colorful.
Antigua's Semana Santa attracts thousands of visitors,
so be sure to book a room early in one of the numerous Antigua hotels. Not quite
as big as Semana Santa, the Guatemala Carnival holiday
is celebrated in February during the week leading up to
Lent. The Guatemala Carnival holiday, while not coming
close to rivaling the celebrations in Brazil,
is a fun affair with the most notable of celebrations
happening in the southwest region of Retalhuleu. The city
of Livingston, which is found along the east coast of
Guatemala near Santo
Tomás de Castilla, has its own Guatemala Carnival
holiday. A special Caribbean-inspired
carnival, this party lasts from Christmas Eve to New Year's
Day. The local Garifuna population is integral to the
celebration, displaying their own music and dances. Holidays
in Guatemala are numerous, and a good amount of planning
may be needed to make sure you find the one that most