June 24, 2011 - Inti Raymi

– Peru

Just as the Danes celebrate the Sun during Midsummer Party, Peruvians in the high-altitude city of Cuzco hold a Sun ceremony called Inti Raymi, or Festival of the Sun.

This isn't held, like the Danish Midsummer Party, near the summer solstice. Instead, it is held near the winter solstice!

(Remember, Peru is south of the equator, and so it has seasons opposite those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere.)

Inti Raymi is actually a reenactment of an ancient Incan ceremony. In 1572, the Spaniards banned the Sun festival, but some people still celebrated in secret. Today, it's a secret no more: Inti Raymi is the second largest festival in all of South America, and hundreds of thousands of people travel to Cuzco to participate.

The long trip made by tourists is made worthwhile by Sun festival events that take place for 5 to 7 days. There are expos, street fairs, and free concerts. But the biggest day of the festival is today, June 24: this is the historical reenactment of the Incan traditions. Actors with elaborate costumes make a procession and wind through streets decorated with flowers, and then climb the steps of the sacred altar of the Inca. Speeches are made. A white llama is sacrificed (“now in a very realistic stage act,” according to About-dot-com). A bonfire is lit. Costumed dancers dance around the bonfire.

And so a new year begins.

For more on the Inca civilization, check out this and that earlier posts.

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