9 junio, 2024

20 Typical Guatemalan Traditions and Customs

The traditions and customs of Guatemala are the result of an extensive cultural tradition that extends from the Mayans to the present day. Among them are the carnival, Holy Week, the Dolores strike, the burning of the bull, the posadas, among others.

Influenced by the Hispanic colonization, the Catholic religion and even political activity, its expressions are many and varied. Throughout the country’s geography, there are patron saint festivities, dances, fairs, brotherhoods and rites resulting from a fusion between religious and mystical tradition.

The prevalence of the Mayan culture, the confluence of races and historical processes have shaped this fascinating town and its beautiful cultural heritage. You may also be interested in seeing 10 typical Argentine customs and traditions.

Guatemalan customs and traditions

1- Carnival in Guatemala

As is customary in countries with a Hispanic tradition, this celebration takes place throughout the Chapín territory. Coming from the Latin carnem levare (to give up meat), it is related to Lent and the custom of not eating this food for 40 days.

According to religious tradition, its celebration begins on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.It is also associated with the end of Christmas, which is represented by January 6.

In this culture, costumes are not mandatory and rather it is a general festivity. It is characterized by empty shells painted with watercolors filled with pica pica or flour that children and adults use to play Carnival in schools and parks.

2- Holy Week

The Semana Mayor takes place every year between the months of March and April. This celebration after Lent has several processions that stage the death and passion of Christ. It is common for this commemoration to show the making of carpets and funeral processions with people dressed up for the occasion.

There are some events that are internationally famous and attract people from different parts of the world. Among them are The Nazarene of the Church of San José, The Review of the Temple of La Merced, the Reclining Christ or Christ of Love of the Temple of Santo Domingo, the Buried Lord of San Felipe and others.

3- The Rabinal Achí

Also known as the Tun dance, it is an international celebration that represents the only pre-Hispanic ballet in the American continent. Its realization is conditioned by several rituals to which the participants submit. One of them is the visit to the mountains that give their name to this tradition to ask for permission 7 times.

Another essential requirement that dancers must meet is related to sexual abstinence during the 30 days before the dance and 30 days after it. This representation often takes place during the election of the Rabin Ajau as part of the cantonal festival.

4- The Corpus Christi of Patzún

Framed in the religious context, this famous popular tradition includes the making of triumphal arches with fruits from the area, the creation of carpets, dances and fireworks. All this is part of the veneration of San Simón in San Andrés de Itzapa, a god who can be both good and bad.

It is an event organized by the local indigenous brotherhood linked to magic and religion. It has a very crowded chapel where they offer the saint incense, cigarettes, liquor and they also give him money, jewelry, plants and animals. This figure is very influential in this and other countries in the region.

5- The black Christ of Esquipulas

This tradition occurs in one of the most impressive sites in Central America and is also known as the trifinio (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala). It is born from the process of Spanish evangelization and is related to deities of color such as Ek Chua or Ek Balam Chua.

It takes place in the department of Chiquimula, considered the center of the world for hosting this sanctuary. It takes place during the month of January and includes pilgrimages, penances, offerings, payment of promises, thanks and more.

6- The strike of Dolores

This traditional satirical march includes a series of activities carried out by the students of the University of San Carlos every Friday of Dolores. Created in 1898 as a measure to put pressure on the government, its most important symbols are La Chabela (dancing skeleton), La Chalana (singing), the newspaper No Nos Tientes and the Bufo Parade.

Throughout its history, it has been suppressed several times with some unfortunate incidents, but it continues to be celebrated. It is a demonstration where the youth takes the opportunity to show their discontent in a humorous way and satirizing figures from the current government.

7- The burning of the bull

This custom consists of a dance of Spanish origin that is linked to the theme of cattle farms and their foremen. The dance tells the story of a foreman who prevents the cowboys from fighting a bull and they decide to get him drunk to do it. The narrative ends with the death of the chief at the hands of the bravest bull.

Its origin is also linked to the arrival of fireworks and it is common to see it in many regions. The torito is a wooden or wire frame filled with lit fireworks that someone carries on their shoulders through the crowd while people try to fight it.

8- The tape race

This activity is also known as Juego de Gallos and is carried out after the ceremony in which the brotherhood requests permission from the saints and Mother Earth. The riders wear a protocol costume that includes colorful scarves, red ribbons and feathers.

The death of a rider is a good omen related to abundance and health, which is why it is celebrated. The turns to enter the track are controlled and the participants must pay to ride for a certain time or for a number of laps.

9- The stiff

Within gastronomy, this dish is one of the most emblematic of Guatemalan culture and is consumed during All Saints’ Day (November 1). Its creation dates back to colonial times, it looks like a salad and can include up to 50 different ingredients.

This multicultural dish contains Mesoamerican vegetables, Spanish or Arab sausages and the particular contributions of each region. It is a family activity that commemorates the deceased and is then accompanied with traditional desserts such as squash, chickpeas in honey or jocotes.

10- The giant kites

Related to the Day of the Dead, they are paper structures made by locals to ward off spirits from homes and cemeteries. At the Santiago Festival everything starts at 4 in the morning to take them to the cemetery and finish assembling them.

The flying kites are kept up until 4 in the afternoon and the next day people go to the cemetery with candles so that the spirits return to their homes. The kites on the ground are raised and at the end of the ritual they are burned by the children so that the smoke can guide the lost souls.

11- The inns

Related to the birth of the Child Jesus, this celebration takes place on the eve of December 24 and is a procession with the images of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph. Children dressed as shepherds who carry candles, lanterns and instruments such as tambourines and castanets participate in it.

It is a tour full of Christmas carols, sones and coplas where the little shepherds are attended when they go asking for a posada during the procession. At the end of the journey, they are invited with a snack that can be a tamale, a punch and sweet bread so that they continue singing until midnight.

12- Guatemalan Christmas

As in Europe, Guatemalans usually place the Christmas tree that has decorations, lights and the typical star at the top. Before, fir branches were used, but this practice has fallen into disuse due to indiscriminate felling, preferring artificial trees or other species.

This celebration has its maximum expression during the days 24 and 25 of December with the celebration of the midnight mass one hour before midnight. When twelve o’clock arrives, fireworks, Merry Christmas wishes, prayers before the Child Jesus and fraternity hugs are common.

13- The burning of the devil

Similar to other American traditions, it is performed as a purification ritual from all the bad things that have happened during the year. In the past, people used all kinds of junk and useless junk to burn. Today devil-shaped piñatas are used and are burned in front of houses every December 7th.

14- The flying stick

Also practiced in the south of Mexico, this Mesoamerican dance is done to ask for the fertility of the soil and rain.

It consists of a cut tree with a revolving structure at the top that also has 4 strings for the dancers. Decked out in feathers and masks, they jump into the void with their feet tied and spinning around the pole.

15- Wedding requests

Faithful to certain traditional customs, the Guatemalan parents of the groom usually arrange an appointment with the parents of the bride to discuss the plans of the future spouses. Generally it is the father of the groom who is in charge of discussing these matters.

Likewise, the mother participates to publicize the plans of the couple and indicate how they can collaborate with happiness and their integration into society. Once the mutual agreement is established, refreshments are provided by the parents of the bride as a goodwill offering.

16- Popular sounds

The musical tradition encompasses all peoples and the Guatemalan is no exception. Making use of local instruments such as the simple or double-keyboard marimba, drum, little drum, whistle, harp, violin, guitarrilla and others, they have created several very distinctive melodies.

Among the best known we can mention the son de la Chabela, the son barreño, they are typical, they are chapín, they are Easter, they are ceremonial, they are traditional and the autochthonous son, among others.

17- Traditional dances

Within the context of dance, there are many and varied expressions that this Mesoamerican people of so much mixture and influences possesses. This has given rise to expressions such as the dance of the monkeys, that of the devils, that of the sailors and that of our old animals.

Other notable examples are: the snake dance, the dragon or tarragón dance, the conquest, the old men, the güegüechos and the Yurumein dance. Likewise, there are Garífuna dances, such as Chip, Yancunú, Sambai, Majani, Gunjae, Zumba and others.

18- Teacher’s Day

In honor of the death of the teacher María Chinchilla Recinos, in Guatemala they established June 25 as Teacher’s Day. This event occurred on the 25th of that month in 1944, during a massive protest against the dictatorship of Jorge Ubico that was violently repressed by law enforcement.

This manifestation is an annual reminder that is carried out to remember the fundamental role of the teacher within society. Historically, the teaching profession in many Latin American countries is underestimated and these professionals live as second-class citizens.

19- Birthday celebration

All cultures show…

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