Paraguay remains a deeply religious country with deep-rooted traditions. Religious festivities are a visitor’s best bet for experiencing Paraguay’s customs and tasting traditional foods. In addition to nationally celebrated religious holidays, each region and town has its own patron saint day festivities known as fiestas patronales. Even the most basic fiestas patronales include a religious procession followed by a town fair with music, special performances, traditional foods, and dancing in the evenings. These events are rarely put together with tourists in mind and therefore offer an unfiltered view of Paraguayan culture. The Senatur event calendar (available in PDF form at www.senatur.gov.py) includes detailed listings of upcoming religious festivities.
Quirky Fiestas Patronales & Processions
Certain fiestas patronales stand out from the rest due to peculiar traditions associated with the patron saints in question, such as special costumes, ritual dances, and games. Some are so popular that they draw onlookers from all over the country. These ceremonies can be an enjoyable experience even if you are not religious and participation is a good way to bond with the locals. Some standouts include:
Marfa Auxiliadora, Asuncion – May 24th This celebration involves aprocesion nautica (nautical procession) along the Paraguay River. The statue of the Virgen Maria Auxiliadora travels by boat from the neighborhood of Sajonia to the port of Asuncion with the faithful following in colorfully decorated boats (see Maria Auxiliadora).
San Pedro y San Pablo, Altos – June 29th Celebrated in a small section of Altos in the Cordillera Department, this festivity involves two to three days of dancing in traditional costumes made of banana leaves (see Fiesta de San Pedro y San Pablo).
San Francisco Solano, Emboscada – July 24th Also known as guaicuru nemonde – the faithful gather fully decked out in costumes covered head to toe with chicken and guinea hen feathers (see Fiesta Patronal San Fransisco Solano).
Arete Guazu, Santa Teresita and Filadelfia (dates vary) Celebrated in Guarani communities. Of the country’s religious festivals, this is the most heavily influenced by indigenous culture (see The Arete Guazu).
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