Burning of the Devil in Guatemala

Every 7th of December in Guatemala, after 6 pm, many Guatemalan households organize the ceremony of the burning of the Devil. This tradition, as sources say, reach deep into the 16th Century.

Burning of the devil | Guatexplorer

The religious meaning of this activity is known: in Catholic Church 8th of December is the day of the Immaculate Conception, Nativity of Mary. It is the day nine months prior to the day of the birth of Holy Virgin, 15th of August. Now, in the old times, there was no public illumination, so they burned fires along the way of processions dedicated to Virgin Mary that started the evening before. During the times it changed into the burning of the Devil.

The idea is to collect all things that you don't need in your house providing that they can burn. It is usually old newspaper, various paper garbage, documents you don't need, branches and wooden objects and so on. Idea is to purify your living space before Christmas. To make this statement more strong, you have to buy a pinata of the little Devil. That one is for burning on the top of the pile saying: Devil, go away from our house, leaving us pure, clean, renewed.

Of course, this typical Guatemalan custom is combined with the fireworks. Everything during the month of December in Guate is combined with the fireworks. The visitor can be puzzled with the number of explosions on a daily basis. But, don't be alarmed and join some Guatemalan family and help them to burn the Devil. After burning usually comes a rich, traditional Guatemalan family supper!

Dance of the Mexicans | Guatexplorer

One of the most interesting dances is called “The dance of the Mexicans”. Now, why would people in a country that neighbors Mexico in the south organizes such an event? Isn’t this mocking of the Mexicans? And why it happens?

Memories of the times of the Conquista live even today in modern Guatemala. The fact is: Guatemala was conquered from what would later become Mexico. Therefore, even Pedro de Alvarado, notorious and cruel conqueror of Guatemala, was Mexican in a way. With him, came the warriors from Tlaxcala and they were ruthless killers. And native Mexicans. To defeated Mayan people what’s left after all is to mock. To keep those bad memories through this chaotic dance of the Mexicans.

This tradition is held mostly in Totonicapán, Chichicastenango and Quetzaltenango areas. Dance is surrounded by various rituals that include incense and candles. Usually, this special event is held in October and some groups of “Mexicans” perform even on the All Saints Day. Photos below, made by Willy Posadas, are made in Sumpango during the famous Kites Festival.

Whatever you do in Guatemala, try also to visit some local festival in some small town. Blend in and enjoy.

San Andres Xecul | Guatexplorer

But it is not thickness or history that attracts visitors; it is the facade of the church, painted in daring yellow color and decorated with over 200 figures scattered all over it. Many people try to read some hidden message in those symbols, but here I can simply say that the whole thing is in fact syncretism, a strange fusion of Mayan beliefs and Catholicism, present all over Guatemala.

The village is also very well known for shamanism, hidden university of K’iche witchcraft, worshiping of Maximon (San Simon) and other naughty things that no real Catholic priest wants to hear about. But, believe me, they do exist.

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