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Chile celebrates the Fiestas Patrias

  15. September 2022  

September is a very special month in Chile - not only because spring is beginning. You will notice that a flag is hoisted in front of or on every house, many windows are decorated, traditional music sounds from the speakers and around mid-September you will see children in traditional costumes on every street corner. Why: Chile celebrates “Dieciocho” (18).

What is beeing celebrated?
No, not independence. At least not as such, but it has to do with. On September 18, 1810, some 450 military men, heads of aristocratic families and prelates of religious orders gathered in the consulate building to deliberate on how the country should be governed after Napoleon captured King Ferdinand VII of Spain. There was a suggestion that a "provisional government" should be appointed to rule during the monarch's imprisonment, as other colonies had done. The majority of the assembly accepted the proposal and appointed a “Junta de Gobierno” – a government. The meeting ended at 3pm to the cheers of Santiago residents. The church bells rang and the people celebrated with a feast and dancing. With the establishment of a Junta de Gobierno, the "people" of Santiago recognized and proclaimed the principle of national sovereignty. Chile's actual independence was not achieved until eight years later, on February 12, 1818, when Bernardo O'Higgins signed the "Acta de Juramento de la Independencia" in Talca. Despite this, Chileans still celebrate September 18 as their national holiday to this day – the day it all began.

How is it celebrated?
The children usually have no school in the week around September 18th - but that doesn't mean that the schools don't celebrate - just that they do it beforehand. The children dress up in the traditional costume of a certain region and prepare a folklore dance from this region, which is then presented at a big “gala”. Since Chile is very long and there is an incredible number of traditional costumes and styles of music from north to south, these galas are always very happy, colorful and sonorous and the children are very proud of their presentations.

In addition to September 18th, on September 19th Chileans celebrate “Day of the Glorious Army”, with a large military parade in Santiago and several smaller ones in the regions. Many people take the days surrounding the 18th and 19th and the nearest weekend off, making for a very long weekend. This is a good opportunity to visit distant relatives or to really relax.

The celebrations then take place either at home – with lots of friends and family – or in so-called “fondas”. These are marquees that are set up in parks and squares. Of course, a real “18-celebration” includes typical specialities: A big barbecue is definitely a must, in the southern regions mostly lamb. Empanadas are also a must: depending on the region and taste, the filled dumplings contain meat, seafood, cheese with crabs, tomatoes or ham or just cheese. They are all delicious, fried or baked. For dessert there must be “Chilenitos”, small pastries with caramel cream in between. There is also plenty of Chilean wine or “terremoto” (“earthquake”), a cocktail with pineapple ice cream.

And then there's dancing. Cueca! As said before, each region has its own dances, but the Cueca from the central region is the national dance. A dancing couple in the costume of the "Huasos" (Chilean cowboys) circles each other very coquettishly and both wave a white cloth. They don't really dance together as a couple, but rather for each other - the Cueca is a kind of courtship dance. The steps and sequence of figures look quite complicated to outsiders, but maybe you would like to learn it during your stay in Chile?

If you would like to be part of the big Chilean party, then plan your Chile travel in September!

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