Peru is a country that’s big on festivals and celebrations. They have at least 3,000 distinct festivals throughout the year!
Many indigenous groups in Peru have celebrations in their villages related to harvests and ancient mythological figures. Plus, there are festivals surrounding the saints of Catholicism introduced by the Spanish.
Let’s party with the Peruvians and learn about food, dancing, and traditions!
January- Trujillo Marinera Festival
Held in Trujillo, Peru every January, the Marinera Festival is centered around dancing. While marinara is an Italian tomato sauce, the Marinera is an ancient dance. Its roots go back to the time of the Incas, and it has evolved over the centuries, blending steps with the Spanish fandango and African zamacueca.
The dance involves a complex choreography centered around a couple’s flirting and courtship. Traditional music played on instruments like the guitar, cajon (box-drum), and bugles, accompanies the dancers who come from all over the country to compete.
Parade of the Paso!
The dance is the major part of the festival. There’s also a parade down the main street to kick off the party, and competitions of the Peruvian paso, a breed of horse known for its smooth gait. Horses weren’t indigenous to Peru, and the paso developed from the horses brought to South America by the Spanish conquistadors.
Both the Marinera and the Peruvian paso are an official part of the culture and heritage of the country.
February- Fiesta de la Candelaria
The largest and most famous festival in Peru and one of the largest in the whole continent of South America, the Fiesta de la Candelaria celebrates the Virgin of Candelaria, the patron saint of the town of Puno. She represents a blend of Catholic and traditional beliefs, standing for “Pachamama” or mother earth, and fertility and purity.
Dancing and Food at the Fiesta
And what a celebration it is! The festival takes place in February, which is harvest season in Peru since it’s in the southern hemisphere. The party lasts for 18 days and is filled with live music and street food, like pork sandwiches and salty-fried fava beans.
The main attraction is the people dancing in the streets. As many as 40,000 participants, elaborately costumed get into the celebrations.
Awesome Dance Competitions!
The dancers travel from all over Peru to participate in dancing competitions. The people are split up into teams and choose from 7 traditional dances. The dances range from moves of playful courtship to a Peruvian waltz to a bullfighting dance.
Brightly colored costumes, dancing, and celebrations fill Puno every year on February 2nd, and have since 1960.
June- Inti Raymi
Temple of the Sun
A festival that has taken place since the time of the Incas, the Festival of the Sun celebrates the winter solstice and the start of the new year.
A Little History...
Smaller Inti Raymi celebrations are even held in far off places like San Francisco and Madrid, Spain. The ceremonies followed the Quechua people as they spread across the globe.
Celebrating in Cusco
The events take place in the city of Cusco on June 24th every year. There is a procession that leaves the city and makes its way to the Fortress of Sacsayhuaman. The fortress was the largest structure built by the Incas.
To prepare for the festival, hundreds of people are chosen to play the parts of the nobility and army that would have taken part in the original celebrations.
A Three Mile Parade!
In the procession, a person chosen to play the part of the Sapa Inca, or ruler of the kingdom of Cusco, is carried on a throne for the 3-plus mile trek to the fortress. There he makes a speech to Inti, the sun god, and to the pilgrims and participants who’ve made the journey.
Following the rituals of gratitude to Inti, the procession makes its way back to Cusco for music, dancing, and feasting.
September- Mistura Culinary Festival
The town of Lima, the capital of Peru, puts on the Mistura Culinary Festival every year. Lasting over 10 days, the festival boasts well over half a million visitors each year, and it’s all about food!
This festival is the biggest food festival in South America and includes flavors that are unique to Peru, from tropical fruits out of the Amazon jungle to seafood, fresh from the Pacific. Blending in with the indigenous flavors, there’s also a mix of delicacies from people that have immigrated to Peru from Asia, Europe, and Africa.
Tres leches cake with coconut
From gourmet cuisine prepared by the many Peruvian chefs to crafty foods whipped up by street vendors, Lima is filled with tasty treats during the festival. From sweets, like tres leches to a Peruvian cookie called alfajores, to ceviche, to fresh breads, all sorts of tasty dishes are available.
You can even find a dish called causa, which dates back to pre-Columbian times. It’s like a layered potato casserole with mashed potatoes sandwiching any sort of filling you can come up with.
Causa rellena de pollo
You can create your own dessert from Lima! Suspiro de Limeña (Sigh of the Lady from Lima) is a smooth, rich custard topped with a dollop of meringue...perfect for the end of your Peruvian dinner.
Bonus Recipe: Suspiro de Limeña
- 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1. 12-oz can evaporated milk
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- Cinnamon for sprinkling
- Carefully separate the eggs into yolks and whites.
- Whisk the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, the 2 egg yolks, and the vanilla extract in a bowl. Make sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Pour the mixture in a saucepan.
- Heat over low to medium heat for 30 minutes until it thickens. Keep stirring the mixture so it doesn't burn! The thickened mixture is called a custard.
- Remove the custard from the heat and pour it into a heatproof glass serving dish and set it aside to cool.
Now comes the fun part: making the meringue!
- Whisk (or use a mixer) the 2 egg whites until they are foamy and make little peaks.
- Add in the powdered sugar, then whisk or mix until you have a meringue. When you lift out the whisk, you'll see stiff peaks.
- Spoon the meringue onto the cooled custard. You can ger creative with those peaks and make designs, but don't overwork the meringue or it'll go flat.
- Refrigerate your creation for 3 hours.
To serve, sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy!
Live music and bands have a part in the festivities, as well. Throughout the town, musicians dressed in the bright and bold colors of Peru perform Huanyo, which is traditional music unique to Peru.
Speaking of Potatoes...
Did you know potatoes originated in Peru?
Native Peruvian Potatoes
Potatoes are a big part of the food of Peru. Plus, South America is where potatoes are naturally from. An indigenous plant, people began domesticating potatoes somewhere between 7,000-10,000 years ago.
Peru boasts a whopping 4,000 varieties of spuds grown in the Andean highlands! There’s even a National Potato Day celebrated in May. Potatoes tend to show up in a lot of Peruvian dishes.
Explore More About Peru!
These are just some of the many festivals held in Peru. Brilliant, colorful, and filled with culture and tradition there are so many things to explore!
You can enjoy the authentic tastes of Peru plus learn about the history, geography, culture and music when you check out the Peru box on eat2explore!