Calendar of Holidays in Peru
Peruvians don’t usually get a great deal of time off work, so they always make the most of the various public holidays in Peru. Although many of the traditional festivals like the Andean New Year (or Inti Raymi) in Cusco, and the yearly Carnival in Cajamarca are hugely popular and are treated as unofficial public holidays, Peru’s major official holidays are religious festivals in what is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, and many of the other public holidays in Peru celebrate events in the country’s history and independence struggle.
1 January – New Year’s Day
New Year’s Eve is a major time for holidays in Peru, but especially on the coast, where Peruvians take advantage of the summer sun to head for beaches from Arequipa in the south to Zorritos in the north. Hotels usually charge for minimum stays of 2-3 days at this time, and prices usually go up as well, but it’s hands-down the most fun time to enjoy the beaches in Peru.
28-29 March – Maundy Thursday and Good Friday
Peruvians double up for the Easter weekend, making sure that everyone has at least four days off work! As a result the Easter holidays in Peru are another time when it can be difficult to get a hotel room. Seats on buses and planes are also at a premium, as traditionally this is time for being with family and so most Peruvians try to head home at this time of year.
1 May – Labour Day
Labour Day is less important in Peru than in some other South American countries, and although you usually get processions in the major cities like Lima and Cusco, this is usually just treated like the May Day bank holiday in the UK. The weather is good in the highlands at this time of year, however, so increasingly Peruvians use the long holiday weekend to do things like visit Machu Picchu.
29 Jun – Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
Many people expect the festival of Corpus Christi (on 23 June) to be a public holiday, because there are huge street processions and parades on that date every year, but actually the only June holiday in Peru is six days later, for the annual feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Since he was a fisherman, St. Peter especially is celebrated at this time in the hundreds of fishing villages and harbours up and down the Peruvian coast.
27-29 July – Independence Celebrations
Peru declared its independence from Spain on the 28th July 1821, and although because in 2013 this falls on a Saturday, the public holiday has been moved to July 27th. This long weekend is one of Peru’s biggest celebrations and is usually seen as a time for getting away from it all, particularly getting out of the Lima winter and heading up into the mountains to get some sun!
30 August – Saint Rosa of Lima
Santa Rosa is Lima’s patron saint and she is hugely popular throughout Peru, especially with Peruvian women. Huge and colourful processions with images, floats, flowers and balloons take place in Lima, and this is really something you should see on your Peru holidays if at all possible.
8 October – Battle of Angamos
Many countries have festivals to celebrate important battles in their history, but most countries choose battles that they won… It perhaps says something about the Peruvian national character that they chose the pivotal naval battle of Angamos, where they effectively ceded control of the Pacific to the Chileans. Perhaps because of the slightly depressive nature, this is the least widely-observed public holiday in Peru.
1 November – All Saints Day
All Saints Day usually dovetails with the strictly Peruvian celebration of the Lord of Miracles. This celebrates a painting by an African slave in the 18th century of a black Jesus Christ on the wall of a church in Lima. The image has survived initial attempts to remove it and several earthquakes to become one of the most venerated icons in South America. The day is marked with enormous street processions around the nearly two-ton float carrying the image.
8 December – Festival of the Immaculate Conception
This festival is seen as marking the start of the Christmas period. Although it’s unclear exactly what it has to do with the conception of Jesus, this public holiday in Peru is traditionally celebrated with large family dinners and plenty of alcohol.
24-25 December – Christmas Eve/Christmas Day
Both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are public holidays in Peru, and in many ways Christmas Eve is actually the more important. This is because the big family meal traditionally takes place on Christmas Eve and after the children go to bed (usually not until around midnight) the adults will take over the house and enjoy a traditional Peruvian fiesta with lots of drink and dancing. Christmas Day is then left for children to play with their presents while their parents get over their resacas…
Guest Post by:
Dan Clarke works for Real Peru Holidays, the UK specialists in tailor-made holidays in Peru. From traditional Peruvian turkey with apple sauce for Christmas dinner, to churros on the street for Santa Rosa, he’s all about the Peruvian food…