FESTIVALS & EVENTS
The city of Oaxaca is said to have a festival every week. As one of Mexico's folk art centers and with over 15 distinct language and cultural groups, the festivals are extremely unique and magical. There are many celebrations in Oaxaca, here's a list of the most popular.
Celebrated the last two weeks of July, this may be Oaxaca's most famous festival with visitors attending from around the world. Also known as Lunes del Cerro, regional dancers from throughout the state express their culture on the last two mondays of the month. The colorful event takes place in an outdoor amphitheater on Fortin Hill, above Oaxaca.
Dancers at the Guelaguetza Festival
This native indian festival is a celebration of the gods of rain and fertility and has been celebrated for many generations. Indigenous dances, music and costumes, fireworks, traditional foods and atmosphere preserve the cultural aspect of the fiesta. The event is booked well in advance and so are the city's hotels.
Noche de Los Rabanos
The "Night of the Radishes" is a unique Oaxacan festival held every December 23rd. The celebration was originally a harvest fiesta, and families & artisans from the surrounding countryside bring in carved radishes in the shapes of people, spacecraft, nativity scenes and anything else they can come up with. Music and traditional food round out the evening.
One of the unique designs of radishes for the festival
Dia de Los Muertos
The Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico and is especially vibrant in Oaxaca. The celebration of All Saints Day takes place on November 1st & 2nd and is a time when the deceased can return to earth and celebrate with the living the earthly delights of music, food & drink.
Prior to the actual days, the markets are colorful and busy. Special items such as pan de los muertos (Bread of the Dead), calaveras (skeletons) made both as candies and decorations, plus marigold-type flowers are sold.
Altars are set up in reverence, and grave sites are cleaned up and restored in remembrance of the dead. Candles burn endlessly and vendors sell food & drink. Bands of musicians can be heard playing at various grave sites. The 1st of November is especially important as it is for the children who have passed on.
Although this celebration is somber in it's nature, it is actually a celebration of the life of the deceased and a time to share in their brief return to the living world.
As with Guelaguetza, bookings should be made early. Many tour companies can set up a traditional itinerary for you.
Holy Week, the Easter holiday, is actually celebrated from Lent on, but the town fills up beginning on Palm Sunday through Easter day. Holy Thursday is celebrated with religious processions and communion. Good Friday is a day of reenactment as a selected individual bears the cross of Christ. Food & drink stands are set up along the way. Saturday morning the celebration begins with fireworks, food & music. On Easter most everyone attends one of the masses at the various churches.