2020 wasn’t filled with the dazzling trips and the cultural immersion experiences we may have hoped for. But 2021 is a new dawn, a new day, and a new opportunity to add experiences to your bucket list. We know travel may not be in the cards for everyone right now, but when the time is right, there are a few Guatemalan celebrations you NEED to add to your bucket list!
Año Nuevo: December 31
While New Year’s Eve is celebrated everywhere, the way Guatemala does it is truly like no other — from watching fireworks on the beaches to enjoying the black sands of Monterrico on the Pacific Coast or the natural swimming pools created from mountain streams.
To recoup from the festivities, many families enjoy traditional Guatemalan dishes like black tamales.
Coffee Harvest Festival in Guatemala: February 2-4
Guatemala is known for its incredible coffee which is why you’ll want to experience its harvest first hand. The coffee harvest festival takes place in the city of Fraijanes, just southeast of Guatemala City.
Featuring music, traditional dancing, and the harvest of the coffee grown in Antigua. During the festival, the celebration of the Virgin of Candelaria or La Virgen de la Candelaria takes place.
Semana Santa Guatemala / Holy Week Easter: March/April
The Easter season in Guatemala is really one of beauty. Semana Santa is celebrated across Guatemala but is celebrated at its peak in Antigua. The streets are decorated in intricate designs with fruit such as mangoes, pineapples, and oranges.
A religious procession follows through the streets, enveloped in solemn music, swaying incense, and attendees. During the celebration, people will eat traditional foods like pacaya in batter, traditional salt cod dishes such as bacalao a la vizcaina, ejotes envueltos, and torrejas en miel.
El Día del Trabajo: May 1
Labor Day isn’t just a celebration in the United States, it also is a Guatemalan holiday, too! Celebrating the rights of workers takes place with the city’s largest march through Guatemala City. It begins in Zona at the Monument to Work and continues to Plaza de la Constitución.
Because the celebration is often a protest to call for improved working conditions, it is not typically something that visitors attend, but it is still a sight to see if you find yourself in Guatemala City.
Jueves de Ascencion: May 9
Considered one of the most important religious holidays in Guatemala, Ascension Day represents the 40th day of Easter.
Celebrated by the Mam Maya people, Ascension Day takes place at Lake Chicabal, a lake set in the crater of Volcán Chicabal near San Martín Sacatepéquez in the department of Quetzaltenango.
Celebrations include flower displays, rituals, and religious ceremonies.
Festival of San Pedro in San Pedro La Laguna: June 24
If you ever find yourself in San Pedro La Laguna, you need to attend the festival celebrating its patron saint, San Pedro. Filled with parades, concerts, shows, beauty contests, and agricultural exhibits, the colorful event is great for anyone who wants to experience the beauty of Guatemala.
Festival of Saint Francis of Assisi: October 4
The Festival of Saint Francis of Assisi celebrates the patron saint of animals. Celebrated with fireworks, food, and merriment, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi hosts devotional ceremonies as well as indigenous Mayan markets.
Día de Todos los Santos & Día de Los Muertos: November 1-2
Many Spanish-speaking countries celebrate the Day of the Dead, and Guatemala is no exception. It is believed that the barrier between the living and the dead is most accessible on November 1 and 2, which is why the people of Guatemala use it to celebrate their ancestors.
In addition to the beautiful displays during the celebration, individuals will clean and decorate ancestral gravestones and communicate with passed family members by attaching messages to kites and letting the winds take them upwards.
La Quema del Diablo: December 7
At 6 p.m. sharp, Guatemalans “burn the devil,” as part of the celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which honors the city’s patron saint. Celebrants burn papier-mâché devils along with household garbage, outside their homes in the streets.
But why? The celebration is part of a religious cleansing for the holy season. The largest of these celebrations takes place in Antigua, Guatemala, and features a street festival with food, live music, and the torching of a giant devil after sunset.
Fiesta de Santo Tomás: December 12-22
During the Fiesta of Santo Tomás, people from local communities dress in costumes to represent Spanish conquistadors and dance in the streets. There is food, music, and fireworks, with a final celebration called the Palo Volador, where dancers climb atop a tall pole with ropes attached to their feet and jump off a platform to spiral downward to the ground.
Add A Trip to Guatemala to Your Bucket List
Travel will be back on all of our to-do lists and when it’s part of yours, you need to come to Guatemala. From cultural immersions to traditional holidays, a trip to Guatemala must be added to your bucket list.
And if you want to explore Guatemala with people who know it best–you need to volunteer with Buena Onda.