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Oaxaca Events and Festivals

Día de los Reyes Magos - (Day of the Three Kings, Epiphany). January 6. This is the end of the Christmas holidays and the day that children receive their gifts. A rich, twisted bread with a doll hidden inside called roscas de reyes is sold, whoever gets one of the little dolls has to throw a party on February 2nd.

Día de la Candelaria - February 2. Traditionally, parties are given by those who find the rosca dolls in their bread from the previous Día de los Reyes Magos celebration. Stands in the Abastos market sell the crowns, robes and accessories for the dolls.
Carnival - The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and the last day before the beginning of lent, usually in late February Carnival is like Mardi Gras in the United States. Carnival is celebrated with dances and other festivities.
Paseos de los Viernes de Cuaresma - (Lent) Early each Friday during Lent, university students at El Llano Park, choose a beauty queen and give flowers to thir favorites.

Birthday of Benito Juárez - March 21. A national holiday honoring the birthday of Benito Juarez (March 21, 1806- July 18, 1872), former President of Mexico, a Zapotec Indian born in Guelatao.
Semana Santa - (Holy week) The week ending with Easter Sunday (Palm Sunday), which is the first Sunday after the full moon on or after March 21. Woven crosses to protect homes are sold in the markets and plazas. On Holy Thursday, visits are made to the seven houses or churches, with altars set up for La Dolorosa (Our Lady of Sorrows). Chía seeds sprouting out of clay animals symbolize the Resurrection. Other decorations use flowers and leaves of the maguey plant. On Good Friday, the Crucifixion is reinacted. On Easter Sunday the Resurrection is celebrated with masses at midnight Saturday and at 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning. At ten on Sunday the church bells ring to celebrate the “Misa de Gloria”. In villages such as Zimatlán and Huixtepec the churches are filled with hundreds of vases of flowers and life-sized statues of the risen Christ.

Día de la Santa Cruz - (Day of the Holy Cross) or Día del Albañil (Day of the Masons). May 3. University of Oaxaca students dress up and celebrate in various ways such as breaking egg shells filled with confetti on the heads of bystanders. Small crosses are placed on buildings under construction.
Cinco de Mayo - May 5, a national holiday. Commemorates the Mexican victory over French troops in the battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Banks and government offices closed.
Vela Ismeña - (Isthmus Gathering), Starts around May 10. A week when people from the isthmus of Tehuantepec residing in the city of Oaxaca come together for a series of public and cultural events, ending with a Mass in Santo Domingo church. Dances, parties, processions of Tehuantepec ladies and girls in gala costumes take place in the City of Oaxaca.

Guelaguetza or Lunes del Cerro - (Guelaguetza Dance Festival) Traditionally takes place the weeks of the two Mondays following July 16, after the deathday of Benito Juarez. This event started in 1932, when Oaxaca celebrated its 400th Anniversary. Guelaguetza is held in a large hillside amphitheater overlooking the city. Dancers representing the many native cultures of Oaxaca perform in colorful costumes. The original event, of pre-Hispanic origin, enacted reciprocal gift-giving and ceremonies in honor of the Corn Goddess. Guelaguetza is a popular, heavily-attended event. Reservations for the program must be made months in advance as it is one of the most well-attended events of the year.

Food of the Gods Festival - Second week of October. The Foods of the Gods Festival sometimes will take place the first week in October. This festival celebrates the traditional cuisines of Oaxaca.

Día de la Independencia - (Independence Day) September 15 & 16. Military parades and reenactment of the Grito or call for independence from Spain in 1810.

Día de los Muertos - (Day of the Dead) November 1 & 2. Nov. 1 is All Saints’ Day, Nov. 2 is All Soul’s Day. Altars are built in homes, markets and shops to honor and receive dead souls which return to earth once a year. The day of the dead is considered a festive celebration rather than mournful event celebrating departed loved ones. Cemeteries are cleaned and decorated with “cempoatzuchitl” (marigold flowers) and “borla” (cockscomb), candles, and food, and families keep an all-night vigil in the cemetery.

Día de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe - (Virgin of Guadalupe Day) December 12, national holiday. The Virgin of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico. She appeared to the Indian Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in the early 16th century and became the beloved saint of the Indians all over Mexico. El Marques del Valle, Hernán Cortés, was especially devoted to her; the Emperor Maximilian built an altar for La Guadalupe in a church in his native Vienna.
Las Posadas - season begins December 16. The calenda of la Virgin de Soledád (Oaxaca's patron saint) takes place around the zócalo. This calenda is filled with cultural and religious expressions of the indigenous people from the seven regions of Oaxaca. There is a solemn procession and then the famous and colorful Danza de la Pluma is performed outside the Basilica de la Soledad. December 16 also marks beginning of the nine days of posadas.
Virgin of la Soledad - (Virgin of Solitude) December 18. - La Virgen de la Soledad is the patron saint of Oaxaca. The Virgin of Solitude is one of the most elaborate festivals in Oaxaca. The celebration includes religious activities, carnival, regional dances, food fair, street fair, music, and fireworks. The church is filled with flowers, banners, candles and worshipers who come from all over the area. It is a glorious spectacle of profound religious sentiment
Noche de Rabano - (Night of the Radishes). December 23. Takes place in the main zócalo. The celebration dates from colonial times and features figures crafted from parts of the radish plant.
Calendas - December 24 The fourth Posada. Groups from all over Oaxaca gather in the zócalo to celebrate the arrival of Christmas night. Before arriving at the zócalo, each posada will proceed to the home of the madrina (god-mother) who will provide a statue of the child Jesus for the local parish's nativity scene. After a parade around the zócalo and through Oaxaca, celebrants return to their churches to prepare for the 'Misa de Gallo' (mass of the rooster), the first worship celebration of the Christmas feast.
Noche del Pedimento - (Night of the Petition) December 31. This celebration takes plan on a hill near Mitla at a tiny chapel where a cave represents the entrance to the other world, symbolized by the mouth of the jaguar god. People come with small models to petition favors from the god(s): cattle, houses, farms, automobiles, wives, good health, and even cash.
Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe: Festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron of Mexico. Towns fill with processions and festivities.


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