Calendar of Fiestas in and around the City of Oaxaca
Oaxaca is a land of many fiestas, most of them based on religious observances, whether Spanish-imposed Catholic rites or precolumbian tradition and beliefs. Everyday there is an interesting celebration somewhere. There are many cultural events such as concerts, exhibitions of dance and art, film festivals, theater and others which are announced locally, especially around the most important holidays. Following are some of the most important and/or most popular fiestas celebrated in and around the city on regular dates.
First Sunday - Paradita del Niño Dios (Epiphany) - Celebrated in all catholic churches, there is a special Calenda (procession) at the Carmen Alto church. A woman is chosen from the congregation as the "godmother" who carries the statue of the Infant Jesus, in company with the three wise men. The procession begins at the home of the godmother, winds around downtown and the zócalo and ends at the church. After mass seets are given to the children.
January 6 - On the feast of the Three Kings it is traditional to share with family and friends a rosca (a circular "coffee cake") in which one or more plastic figurines of the infant have been hidden. Those who find a "muñeco" in their piece of rosca must host the party on February 2.
January 18 - Virgen de Los Cantaritos - celebrated at the church of San José with mañanitas, procession, and other religious activites on the third Sunday this fiesta commemorates the appearance of the virgin to the water carriers of the Barrio de Peñasco.
January 25 - Santiago Apóstol - Feast of the patron saint of the village of Cuilapám, festivities begin on the 24th, with mass on the morning of the 25th, followed by rodeo, fireworks and dancing, including the famous Danza de la Pluma on the 25 and 26th, ending with musical presentations and a village dance.
February 2 - La Candelaria
or Purification of the Virgin and the
Blessing of the Infant Jesus (sometimes celebrated on the weekend nearest the date) In most churches the godmother is responsible for dressing the statue of the infant Jesus in a white robe and crown which is then carried in procession from her house, the calenda winding around through the zócalo to the church.
In the nearby village of Santa María del Tule this feast is celebrated with a calenda, mayordomía and guelaguetza .
February 5 - Constitution day, national holiday, special patriotic observances.
February 24 - Flag Day, many offices closed, special patriotic observances concerning the national banner.
Tuesday before Ash Wednesday - Fiesta de los compadres at el Marquesado church celebrated with convite, novena, calenda palo ensebado, mañanitas, regional food, religious and cultural activities, rosary at dawn,carnival rides,music and fireworks.
Ash Wednesday in the nearby village of San Andrés Huayapán commemorates the occasion in the 19th century when the image of Christ began to perspire to express disapproval of certain Sunday outings which were held near the church. The image is venerated and ashes distributed. Church is open from 17:00 to 23:00.
Fridays in Lent - An interesting tradition is still observed in the morning of each Friday in Lent when young people congregate in the Llano Park and the young men give flowers to the young ladies of their choice.
La Samaritana - A very popular custom celebrated on the fourth Friday in Lent when, in offices, businesses, churches and homes, fruit flavored "water" is given to visitors and passersby, commemorating the gift of water to Christ by the Samaritan woman. The traditional flavors include chilacoyota, tamarindo, jamaica and horchata.
There are many other special observances during Lent at different churches, including the Virgin of Sorrows on the fifth Friday, Palm Sunday, and especially on Good Friday with the Procession of Silence, the Viacrucis, the Condolence to the Virgin of Soledad and the Resuscitation, this last celebrated at the Church of Carmen alto with mayordomia, calenda and other religious activities, la Danza de la Pluma and fireworks.
March 21 - Anniversary of the birth of President Benito Juárez, national holiday with many official and other patriotic observances honoring the Benemérito of the Americas.
Easter Sunday is celebrated in all the churches with special religious activities.
April 25 - anniversary of the decree by Carlos V in 1532 raising the Villa de Antequera to the category of royal city with the name of Antequera de Oaxaca . Thare many public festivities and musical programs presented by Philharmonic Orchestras to celebrate this event.
April 29 - La Fiesta de la Tortilla and patron saint fiesta begins in San Felipe del Agua with a calenda and continues for the week with carnival rides, street fairs, dancing, jaripeo, food fair, music and fireworks.
April 30 - Día del niño (Children's Day) Celebrated nationwide with parties in the schools, homes, commercial promotions, carnivals, etc.
May 1 - Día del Trabajo (Labor Day) A national holiday celebrated with parades and speeches.
May 3 - Feast of the Santa Cruz and Day of the Albañil (Construction Worker), and of the architect and Engineer. Celebrated in any village or colonia named Santa Cruz in various manners, and on all construction sites, as well as with parades music and cultural activities by the students in architecture and engineering.
May 10 - Mother's Day celebrated nationally with commercial promotions and special attentions to all mothers.
May 18 - In Ocotlan de Morelos, aprox. 26 kilometers from the city of Oaxaca, this is the principal fiesta, on the feast of the Lord of the Sacristy. Parade, cock fights, music and fireworks.
June 3, 1999 - Feast of Corpus Christi - variable date in June, important religious observance in all churches and in markets where special empanadas de Corpus Christi filled with lechecilla, pineapple and coconut are sold.
July 5 - Fiesta of the Blood of Christ celebrated at the church of Sangre de Cristo with mañanitas, music, relisioug activities, regional food and fireworks.
July 16 - Fiesta de la Señora del Carmen The religious festivities take place at Carmen Alto church with calendas, music and fireworks. This is also the start of the Guelaguetza festivities, one of the most important.
The Guelaguetza is the "modernized" version of the prehispanic custom of making an offering (guelaguetza in Zapotec) to the gods and especially to the goddess of corn to ensure sufficient rainfall and a good harvest. July 16 in the present calendar is equivalent to the ancient calendar date of the feast of the goddess of tender corn. As the Spanish priests were not able to abolish this deeply rooted custom, they "catholicized" it by tying it to the feast of the Virgin of Carmen. On this date there are parades with the regional delegations to the Guelaguetza, the "giants" , musicians, etc. and the official Guelaguetza takes place on the two following Mondays. On theSunday preceding the first Monday there is a contest to choose from the candidates of each delegation the "Goddess Centeotl" who will preside at all the festivities. She is chosen, not for her beauty although she may be very lovely, but for her knowledge of the customs and traditions of her village and region. That same evening in the Plaza de la Danza is the Bani Stui Gulal, a representation of dances from several periods in the history of the Guelaguetza.
On the two Mondays (in 1999 July 19 and July 26) festivities begin with mañanitas at 5:00 AM followed by local bands until the Guelaguetza proper begins at 10:00 with the presentation of the Diosa Centeotl and all the delegations, followed by the dances, music, tradition and the gift of regional products to the audience. All the seven regions of the state are represented with their traditional dress and customs in the open air amphitheater on the Cerro del Fortín overlooking the beautiful colonial city below. It is a magnificent spectacle on a perfect day (it is forbidden to rain that morning) and should not be missed. It finishes around 1:00 PM and everyone goes to the zocalo to watch the many presentations of one or another delegation around town.
On the two Monday nights, in the same Guelaguetza Auditorium, entrance is free to the presentation of the Legend of Donaji. Daughter of Cosijoeza, last ruler of the Zapotecs in the Valley, Donaji's life and tragic death are dramatically presented with fireworks and spectacular effects.
The guelaguetza period ends the last three days of July with mañanitas, calendas, religious activities, music and fireworks at the church of Carmen Bajo.
July 24 - in the village of Cuilapam de Guerrero, site of the impressive 16th century temple, the eve of the feast of Santiago Apostle is celebrated with presentations of the fabulous Danza de la Pluma and other traditional dances, with religious activities on the 25th.
August 2 - Our Lady of the Angels is celebrated at the church of the Siete Principes (archangels) with religious activities, calenda, music and fireworks.
August 15 - Feast of the Assumption is celebrated at the Cathedral of the Assumption in the city and at the temple of the Assumption in the nearby village of Huayapan. Religious activities,calendas, music, fireworks.
August 30 - Santa Rosa de Lima - A grand fiesta in the neighborhood of Santa Rosa with mañanitas, religious,sport and cultural activities, calenda, convite, food fair, carnival, music, popular dance, fireworks, etc.
August 31 - Blessing of the Animals - People take their dressed up pets to be blessed at 4:00 PM in the church of La Merced on the feast of San Ramón Nonato.
September 8 - Virgen de la Consolación - religious activities, calenda, food fair with regional food, carnival rides and fireworks at the Consolación church.
September 15 - Grito of Independence of México - La Noche Mexicana is celebrated nationwide with parties, dancing, fireworks. At 11:00 PM the ceremony of the Grito commemorates the call for independence from Spain given on September 15, 1810 by Miguel Hidalgo. In Oaxaca and in every city and village the zocalo or main square is filled with people who will shout the ¡Viva Mexico! and enjoy the fireworks, dances and other festivities.
September 16 - Independence Day - National holiday celebrating Mexico's Independence from Spain. Parades and cultural, political activities.
September 24 - Virgen de la Merced - Rosary at dawn,convite, religious activities, calenda, food fair/community meal, carnival rides, popular dance, music, fireworks at the church of La Merced.
October 4 - St. Francis of Assisi church celebrates the saint's day with mañanitas, rosary at dawn, religious activities, calenda and food fair.
October 7 or nearest weekend - La Virgen del Rosario is feted at a number of churches with mañanitas, rosary at dawn, religious and cultural activities, calenda, food fair, carnival rides and fireworks. Some churches are: Trinidad de las Huertas, El Rosario and the church in Ixcotel. Activities at Santo Domingo are only religious.
Second Monday of October - Celebration of the 2000+ year old Tule tree in Santa María del Tule, with all kinds of activities. It is a custom to eat in el Tule that day if at all possible.
October 18 - In the area of San Lucas in Cuilapam the saint's day is marked by celebrations which include a great parade of flower bedecked oxcarts whose drivers offer fresh fruit to the spectators.
October 31 - Beginning of the Days of the Dead celebrations, one of the most important in Oaxaca which take place from October 31 to November 2, with certain days assigned throughout November for the cleaning and decoration of family tombs. There is a special market to provide flowers, sugar cane stalks, pan de muerto, chocolate, peanuts, fruits, sweets and all the necessities for the altars. Every family and many museums, churches, businesses and offices prepare an altar to honor their dead and await the visit of the spirits of the departed.
On this night, beginning at 7:00 PM, those who have family or friends in the cemetery at Xoxocotlan begin arriving with flowers and candles and most stay until 6:00 AM. On November 2 at 12:00 noon, the priest blesses every tomb in the cemetery.
November 1 - This is the day to visit the Pantheon San Miguel, the general cemetery of the city and the Municipal Tourism office organizes various activities, among them: - a musical performance at the cemetery all day - the lighting of 2400 candles set in the niches in the main arch - decoration of a tomb dedicated to the dead who have no family - a contest of altars, with a prize for the winner - there are some tapetes de levantada de cruz (sand paintings)
visits are as follows: November 2 -San Miguel, San Felipe, Ixcotel
First Monday - el Marquesado ........................Second Monday - San Martin
Third Monday - San Juan Chaputepec...............Fourth Monday - Xochimilco
This is avery important season in Oaxaca with many special observances and associated cultural events.
November 20 - The anniversary of the 1910 revolution, this is a national holiday celebrated with parades and many civic observances.
November 22 - Feast of St. Cecilia, patroness of musicians, is observed by local musicians who organize special masses at el Marquesado and San Felipe, followed by a big musical party.
December 8 - In the village of Santa Catalina Juquila, aprox. 1 kilometers from the city, is the statue of the Virgen Morena de Juquila to which are attributed many miracles. Every year hundreds of thousands make a pilgrimage to Juquila, some on foot, on bicycle and by car or truck. There are many legends about this small statue which, when taken to a neighboring village, mysteriously reappeared in its original home. When a flash fire destroyed most of the village, including the house where the statue was kept, the statue was found unharmed, simply with its skin darkened.
Here in the city, this feast is celebrated in San Juan Chapultepec with mañanitas, rosary at dawn, religious and cultural activities, convite, calenda, food fair, carnival palo ensebado, music, dance, fireworks. A special calenda goes from the church of San Juan to the Basilica of la Soledad.
December 12 - Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of all Mexico, is celebrated nationally. Here on the day before the small children are dressed to represent Juan Diego to whom the Virgin miraculously appeared in the 16th century and a simple "indian" woman of the time, and taken to the Guadalupe church to be blessed. All of the area around the Llano Park in front of the church is filled with carnival rides and special attractions for the children.
There are many other activities, including mañanitas, rosary at dawn, convite, religious activities, calenda, carnival, food, music and fireworks. Many of the unions of bus and taxi drivers participate in the special religious activities.
December 16 - 24 - The traditional Posada commemorates the search by Mary and Joseph for shelter in Bethlehem. On each of the nine nights preceding Christmas the holy couple and other "pílgrims" request shelter and are refused at various houses before being admitted by the chosen host for that night. The request, refusal and admittance are all sung in verse and a great party is held at the chosen house with special foods, collations, fruit, candy, piñatas and music.
December 18 - La Virgen de la Soledad is the patron of Oaxaca and the entire city and state honor her on this day with mañanitas, rosary at dawn, convite, calenda, religious activities, carnival, regional dances, food fair, street fair, music, fireworks. The day begins at 4:00 AM music and firewroks; at 6:00 AM is the Promenade to the markets 20 de Noviembre, Benito Juárez and IV Centenario nd to the zócalo. Activities continue throughout the day, including visits to the padrino's house and a return to the church at 1:00 or 2:00 AM
December 23 - Night of the Radishes, a uniquely Oaxacan celebration which has its roots in the special market held the day before Christmas Eve when growers began to exhibit radishes which had grown to enormous lengths and with fantastic shapes. In time, they started to carve and fashion more sophisticated figures and to make tableaus representative of the season, especially nacimientos or nativity scenes. Apparently 1897 was the first year that the Municipality of Oaxaca organized the event as a contest and offered a prize to the best nacimiento made of radishes. Over the years the event has grown and two additional categories are now included - totomoxtle (corn husks) and flor inmortal (everlasting flowers). Also, other types of scenes representative of Oaxaca are permitted in addition to nacimientos.
December 24 - La Noche Buena or Christmas Eve All the churches offer special calendas with floats, lights and music which pass through the city, the zócalo and back to the churches. The last of the Posadas is held and all the anticipation and celebration culminates in the Misa de Gallo (Midnight Mass ) at midnight. From then on, most celebrations are family oriented and take place in the home.
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