New Year’s Day
January 1, National Holiday
New Year’s Day is a national holiday throughout Peru. Understandably, the day gets off to a slow start. Following a long night of drinking, dancing and fireworks, New Year’s Day tends to be a sleepy affair with few businesses opening and plenty of people staying in bed to avoid the repercussions of the night before.
Niño Callaocarpino y el Niño Jacobo Illanes
December 31 to January 2, Huancavelica
Don’t expect a quiet New Year’s Day in Huancavelica. January 1 is the principal day of a festival and pilgrimage in honor of Niño Callaocarpino and Niño Jacobo Illanes, two children who, according to legend, suddenly appeared then vanished in Chaccllatacana, a village 2.5 miles from Huancavelica. Today, entire families walk to Chaccllatacana for the annual festivities, which include prayer and song as well as traditional dances such as the Negritos dance, bullfights and processions.
Festival de los Negritos
December 24 to January 19 (dates vary), Huánuco
The Festival de los Negritos (Festival of the Blacks) originates from a Christmas period back in 1648, when a wealthy Spanish landowner freed his black slaves. In celebration, the former slaves danced around the nativity scenes that had been laid out for the festive season. The modern celebrations feature processions and dances through the streets of Huánuco, with revelers dressed in colorful costumes, their faces painted black.
Adoración de Reyes Magos
January 6, Nationwide
January 6 is the Christian festival of Epiphany, the day on which the Biblical Magi, better known as the Three Wise Men, visited the Baby Jesus. In Peru, the day is known as the Adoración de Reyes Magos, and the celebrations are similar to those of other Latin American nations and Spain. Street parades re-enact the journey of the Wise Men as they carry their gifts to Jesus, after which both public and private nativity scenes are dismantled and put away until the following Christmas (known as the Bajada de Reyes). The festivities are particularly colorful in Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Huancavelica and Lima. On a side note, Francisco Pizarro settled upon a site for the new capital of Peru on the day of Epiphany, hence Lima’s nickname of Ciudad de los Reyes (City of Kings).
Foundation of Iquitos
January 5, Iquitos
Despite having an uncertain and at times disputed date of birth, the jungle city of Iquitos celebrates its foundation with typical vigor on January 5. The anniversary celebrations include plenty of parades and parties, so expect a long night of drinking and dancing -- jungle style.
Foundation of Lima
January 18, Lima
The Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded the city of Lima on January 18, 1535, a date now celebrated with citywide parades, fireworks and parties. There are always plenty of things to do in Lima, but January 18 is a particularly good time to visit the city if you’re looking for a vibrant night out.
January 20, Canas Province, Cusco
The Chiaraje is a ritual battle held each year in the province of Canas in the Cusco region. The battle, or pucllay, is part of a fertility ritual, the conflict giving life to Pachamama, (Mother Earth) in turn helping to ensure a good harvest. The local men form two competing groups, each armed with braided leather whips and traditional slings. Each side then attempts to force the other to flee. The hillside battle has calmed in the last few decades, but injuries are almost certain in the midst of the fiercely competed battle.
Fiesta del Niño Dulce Nombre de Jesús (Niño Perdido)
January 14, Huancavelica
The four-day Fiesta del Niño Dulce Nombre de Jesús is a colorful mix of religious tradition and lively dancing. The Huancavelica parades recreate the tale of the Niño Perdido (the Lost Child), the young patron of the Ica valley who went missing and later appeared, quite mysteriously, in Huancavelica. The re-enactments feature various characters and costumes, including Los Negritos, the black slaves who went looking for the lost child.
Festival de la Marinera
January 20 to 30, Trujillo
Peru’s largest and most prestigious marinera dance festival takes place in the city of Trujillo, located on the north coast of Peru. The ten-day event features the most skilled marinera dance couples from across the country, with additional processions, parties and dances spilling out into the streets and squares of Trujillo.