Christmas in Peru? Perhaps Peru does not spring to mind as a traditional places to visit for Christmas. But why not?
Christmas market of Santarintukuy
Each year, since 1689, the 24th December has seen a Christmas market in Cusco’s main square. Last year almost 1500 stalls offered a wide variety of goods, nativity figures, decorations, handmade toys, seasonal foods and much more. 2015 will see it lasting two days for the first time ever, now the 23rd and 24th.
Aside from those with stands, come many people from the local hill communities. Dressed in their traditional wear of ponchos, polleras and big hats ( or clothes as they would call them because they really do wear this everyday), they come down to the town to sell twigs and moss to make a little money to provide some kind of Christmas to their families. The twigs or moss are bought by the townsfolk to use when making their nativity scenes. These hill people can be seen for the week of the festival, sleeping under the arches around the main square, in order to get themselves a good spot. In response to the hundreds that come down from the hills, some locals and charities offer food and drink to them, normally hot chocolate and bread, to stave off the cold and fill hungry stomachs. It is a very real reminder of the real Peru that exists outside the tourist sites.
Traditionally the main focus of the market was to sell ceramic statues of the baby jesus in a crib. El Niño Manuelito, as he is known here is then taken to the churches to be blessed before being placed in the family’s nativity scene. While they actually have a price for the best Niño Manuelito each year, for most people bigger is better. Thus the traditional nativity scenes consists of a few small donkeys, pigs and cows, and one huge baby who is usually about five times as big as his parents.
Whether you buy anything or not, this is a great day out and a very important and authentic part of Cusco culture.
Machu Picchu is still open
A visit to Machu Picchu makes for a very special Christmas. It is open as normal as are all the Inca sites. Some of the museums and galleries are closed on the 25th and 1st. Obviously the 25th is not the day to be touring inside the churches out of respect.
Hotels do have spaces
Christmas in Cusco is actually very busy, so you need to be a bit flexible when requesting hotels, but there are still spaces available. The five and four star categories are much harder to find spaces than the three stars.
It can be sunny
Many think this time of year is the rainy season, but with recent climate change December is actually a lot drier than before. In Cusco the sun shines almost every day. Even if it rains, the sun still comes out after. It is best to plan on half day activities in the morning, as the weather is more reliable, allowing you to enjoy some free time in the afternoon.
Some great Christmas dining
The high end hotels have their own take on Christmas dinner. Usually served on the night of the 24th ( as is the custom here), you can get a delicious Peruvian twist on Christmas dinner. Note most of these high end hotels make it compulsory.
For those who are staying in other hotels, there are some great options to be had in the local restaurants, whether you want something Christmasy, or something as far from that as possible. Ceviche perhaps?
Its even good for those who want to escape Christmas
For those who do not like Christmas at all, it is not hard to avoid it completely out here with a careful bit of planning. It is not such a long lasting affair as in the West, with most people working on the 24th then again on the 26th. So life does for the most part go on as normal and it is lower key than our home countries.
It is still Peru
Christmas in Peru will always be special, because Peru is special. Whatever day of the year you come and whatever type of Christmas you want, this is still a stunningly beautiful, vibrant and colourful place to spend some time.
If you want to find out more about booking a trip to Peru this Christmas, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org