Of the many festivals in Cusco, Peru, the Carnival celebration is one of the most fun of all! Each year everyone waits for February’s Carnival festival to dress up, party down and toss water balloons and flour to get each other messy.
Unsuspecting bystanders are not left out. El Carnaval is definitely a time to get a bit wild and crazy!
The carnival celebration has deep Catholic roots that go back a long time in Peru’s traditions.
Essentially, Carnavalis the week of gaiety and partying that precedes the solemn days of Lent- a brief time to let loose and indulge your less devout instincts.
Carnival is celebrated across most of Latin America, and the U.S. version is New Orleans’ Mardi Gras.
In Peru’s culture and traditions,Carnival is celebrated in every city, town and neighborhood.
Carnival celebrations in Cusco, Peru take place for over a week, with diverse settings and events depending on the participants cultural traditions.
The Plaza de Armas, Cusco’s main downtown square, is the site of the most intense Carnival merriment, including parades of dazzlingly dressed native dancers.
Two important celebrations in Peru are the Compadres’ and Comadres’ Days, which launch the carnival season and honor the cherished godfathers and godmothers of Cusco and other Andean towns who help keep families united and strong.
These celebrations, which include delicious traditional food, music and dances, and hanging rag dolls that represents the godparents, are described further at this blog post: Compadres’ and Comadres’ Day Celebrations.
Carnival celebrations in many parts of Peru wind up with the Yunza Festival, in which a tree, often a tall sapling, is chosen by the padrino (another word for godfather) in charge of the party, and draped with presents and simple household items, such as brooms, buckets and bottles of soda pop.
Guests bring more gifts and a few cases of beer are usually placed at the foot of the tree. After a speech by the padrino, the guests take turns chopping at the tree with a machete until it finally falls.
Then, the guests scramble wildly to claim their prizes, as the band plays and water fights take place. Whoever finally lands the final chop will have to organize next year’s Yunza party, and a great time is had by all.
Peru’s festivals are joyous events, and Carnival is no exception. It’s a great opportunity to party with local celebrants, and you can’t avoid having too much fun.
Come to Peru in February to celebrate Carnival or visit us for other wonderful festival seasons at different times of the year. In Peru, there’s always a traditional celebrationor colorful festival just around the corner!

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