People from the city and region of Huancayo are among the happiest in Peru, according to a report by Jorge Yamamoto (link is in Spanish). One of the reasons given for this is that people in Huancayo work hard, but they also party hard.
There is a celebration, party or festival happening somewhere in the region almost every day of the year (festival calendar in Spanish here).
The celebrations fall roughly into four main categories, which I will summarise here:
Huancainos (residents of Huancayo) go all-out when celebrating milestones in life. The majority of the population is Catholic, and godparents are not only called upon for baptisms but also for graduations and weddings! Here are some family celebrations:
- The 'naming' of the unborn baby, where relatives suggest names and take a vote
- Baby shower
- Children's baptism, first communion and confirmation
- Birthdays, especially the 15th birthday (girls)
- Kindergarten, primary, secondary and tertiary graduations
- Engagement party
- Bridal shower, buck's and hen's nights
- Wedding and reception
- Mother's Day, Father's Day and Children's Day
- Days for various trades and professions
Cultural and political festivals
These festivals include Independence Day celebrations, historical re-enactments and regional folk dancing competitions. Characters are often based on Spanish conquistadors, colonial leaders, Argentine cattle-men, Incas, native Andean Indians, warriors, 'old people', and various migrant groups of significance in Peru's history.
Local religious festivals
Catholicism in Huancayo is very inclusive: patron saints, angels, ancestors, folk-deities and miraculous apparitions of 'virgins' and 'lords' are all named and worshipped with shrines, prayers, statues, music, dance and beer.
Residents mostly select the particular set of 'gods' they want to look to in times of trouble, and Catholic services and festivals include prayers to the local saints, lords and virgins.
The most important 'saint's day' in Huancayo is 25 July, the day of Santiago (St. James the greater). People travel both nationally and internationally to be part of this week-long festival where groups of musicians and dancers parade through the streets in the iconic 'Santiago' costume and 'Huancayo' district hat, playing and singing Santiago music and dancing Santiago steps.
Although the festival is performed in the name of 'Santiago', it comes from a pantheistic tradition in which residents made an offering to the large mountain, believing that the god of the mountain, known as 'Taita Huamani' or 'Taita Orcco' protected their crops and herds.
Catholic festivals with pagan roots
By this, I refer to the common 'Western' festivals which come from a mixture of Roman Catholic Christianity and paganism. These are celebrated in style in Peru:
- Saints' days (celebrated with statues and prayers addressed to each saint)
- Christmas (from the birthday of the unconquered sun-God Baal, pagan Saturnalia festival also called 'Yule')
- The descent of the kings/Epiphany on 6 Jan (from the winter solstice, pagan tribute to the virgin goddess Aeon)
- Carnival (from the pagan spring festival)
- Valentine's Day (from the Eve of Lupercalia, Roman festival of fertility god Baal)
- Easter/Holy Week (from the festival of Asherah/Ishtar/Inanna/Ostara – goddess of spring, dawn, romance, procreation and war in Ancient Babylon)
- Halloween ('The Day of the Witches', from Celtic 'Samhein' divination festival)
- The Day of the Dead (pagan Aztec day of ancestor-worship)
What to celebrate?
With so many festivals on offer, I am confronted with choices regarding which festivals I will and won't participate in, and why...
Will I celebrate all of them because they are fun, colourful and part of the culture?
Will I go with the family to the festivals they celebrate to build relationship, but not 'participate' in those festivals that are against my conscience as a follower of the One Living God?
Will I refuse to participate in any of the festivals, as none of them are Biblical, and sit at home celebrating nothing?
Our God loves to party
Fortunately, our God loves to party. In fact, he is the Lord of the Party! In the Torah (the books of Moses), the Lord in fact commanded the following regular celebrations:
- The Sabbath (a whole-day reverent party in His honour every week, from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday)
- The Feast of Unleavened Breads
- The Feast of First Fruits and Waving of the Sheaf
- Pentecost (Feast of Weeks)
- The Feast of Trumpets
- The Day of Atonement
- The Feast of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day/Great Day
- Sabbath years every 7 years
- The Jubilee Year every 49 years
- Also mentioned in the Bible are the observances of Purim (remembering the Lord's deliverance of the Jews from genocide while in Persia) and Hanukkah (the Feast of Dedication, remembering the Lord's deliverance of the Jews from Greek religious persecution and defilement of the temple in the time of the Maccabees, and the temple's subsequent re-dedication to God)
Every feast and Holy Day commanded by God has an Old Testament meaning for the Jews as well as a New Testament meaning in Christ – the promised Messiah.
While I do not look to God's law to save me but rather for instruction in godly living, wouldn't it be a great witness to observe God's festivals in Peru's party town, pointing those around me toward the amazing destiny God has for them in Christ?
Rosanne Menacho has recently moved to Peru with her husband to spend time living with his family. She has begun apprenticeships in 'Latina house-wifery' (specialising in Peruvian cookery) and guinea pig farming (also specialising in Peruvian cookery!) under the tutelage of her mother-in-law. In her spare time, Rosanne enjoys playing music, dancing, translating and drinking herbal tea. Her heart is to worship and represent Messiah in spirit and in truth, and to see YHWH's Kingdom come on Earth.
Rosanne Menacho's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/rosanne-menacho.html