Peru celebrates thousands of events each calendar year. The majority of these are organized to celebrate a patron saint. But even these religious events are mixed with the mystical local religion of the pre-Colonial period.
Processions, music, dancing in costumes, and eating/drinking form the core activities of these festivals. Often, entire towns shut down to celebrate, so it's important to plan bank visits and shopping around certain dates.
- All Saints Day and Day of the Dead, Across Peru - November 1:All over the country, residents visit cemeteries carrying floral crowns to visit the dead and clean their tombstones. Later, they share food and drink with the other residents. This ritual is part of a tradition that has been followed since the pre-Hispanic era. Those who have lost a child give children rolls and sweets in bags called angelitos (little angels). Through the night, families hold a vigil at the cemetery with candles until the dawn of the second day.
- Immaculate Conception, Arequipa, December 8:On December 8, after the procession, men dressed in women's clothes approach women and "kidnap" them in a unique dance. This is a good time to visit the 16 baroque churches of the Colca Valley, its hot springs (La Calera), and the beautiful terraces of one of the deepest canyons in the world.
- Andean Christmas, Across Peru, December/January:The Andean Christmas has acquired unique local character by adding typical elements from each region. These elements are characterized by the extreme care observed in Nativity scenes, decorations in churches and homes, the performance of dances and plays, the cooking of typical dishes and a wide range of crafts such as Nativity scenes carved in stone, altarpieces containing Christmas-related images and pottery or carved "mates" decorated with Easter drawings. In most Andean communities, the festival continues until the arrival of the Three Wise Men, the Catholic celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, when gifts are traditionally given.
Carnival Season, Across Peru, February 1 to March 31 Peruvian carnivals are marked by celebration and the participation of the whole community. The yunza ritual, known as umisha in the jungle or cortamonte in the coast, involves the artificial planting of a tree loaded with presents, with a dance around this tree until it is cut down with a machete or axe. The couple that cuts down the tree will be in charge of organizing the yunza the following year. All over the country, it is very popular to throw water at people, so if you're planning on travel to Peru during Carnival season, dress accordingly! Carnival cities known for their celebrations are Cajamarca, Puno, Ayacucho, Huaraz, Apurímac, San Martín and Tacna.