Fiestas Patrias: Chile’s most festive holiday of the year

Excitement is building in Chile in anticipation of the biggest holiday of the year, Fiestas Patrias – otherwise fondly known as “Dieciocho.” Join Chile.Travel in the coming days as we explore Fiestas Patrias celebrations and traditions throughout Chile.

What is Fiestas Patrias?

Fiestas Patrias is observed annually in Chile on September 18 – hence the name “Dieciocho,” (“Eighteen” in English). Chileans take their celebrations seriously, and Fiestas Patrias activities can continue for up to a week surrounding the date of the holiday.

This year, September 18 falls on a Tuesday, and most Chileans will revel from Friday September 14 until Wednesday September 19.

Fiestas Patrias began with the initiation of Chile’s independence process in 1810; September 18 marks the proclamation of independence, and September 19 is known as the “Day of the Glories of the Army.” Chilean law requires that all public institutions show the country’s patriotism by hanging national flags outside for the holiday.

How is it celebrated?

“Dieciocho” officially kicks off with a ceremony at the Cathedral of Santiago on September 18. The Great Military Parade of follows on September 19 at Parque O’Higgins in Santiago, with millions of people in attendance, and many more observing the festivities on television.

Fiestas Patrias is Chile’s celebration of itself. The country’s colorful history, vibrant heritage and heartfelt traditions are ardently displayed during the festival week through expressive Chilean attire, food, music and dancing.

“Fondas” in every community sell favored foods like empanadas, along with beer, wine, pisco and “chicha” – a popular alcoholic beverage of lightly-fermented wine. The fondas are typically accompanied by outdoor “ramadas” – venues for dancing and socializing.

Family barbeques and get-togethers are common as well, with many Chileans traveling to other regions and cities for the holiday.

A time for Cueca

No Fiestas Patrias celebration would be complete without performances of Chile’s national dance – the Cueca.

Cueca dancing is a matter of pride for Chileans, and each individual adds his or her own particular flair to the dance, which consists of a enacting a coquettish courtship ritual between a man and a woman, symbolized by a rooster and hen.

Many Cueca dancers wear traditional Chilean costumes, waving romantic white handkerchiefs in time with the folk music’s distinct rhythm and energetic dance steps.

A week of celebration

Different regions of Chile add their own local flavor to the festival. Stay tuned throughout the week as Chile.Travel reports on Fiestas Patrias activities from Arica to Punta Arenas.

By Gretchen Stahlman, written for Chile.Travel
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