Christmas is one of the biggest festivities celebrated all over the world, and the city of Cusco is not left behind since it has its own traditions that make it a unique and unmatchable party. On December 24th, the city’s Plaza de Armas is crowded with hundreds of artisans who bring their best works to be able to exhibit them and sell them at the most important Peruvian art fair.
The Santurantikuy or “Sale of the Saints” had its beginnings in colonial times when the Catholic religion came to Peru, bringing with it new customs that the Andeans mixed with their own rituals, thus creating a unique mixture between both cultures that is admired to this day.
The main figure at the fair is the “Niño Manuelito”, which is a representation of the baby Jesus in various attitudes: they can be asleep, sitting or with their arms outstretched to welcome us. They are dressed in different costumes that are changed each year because according to a tradition Cusco “children grow a little year by year and the suit of the previous year is already too small.” Many of these costumes are on sale at the fair in different sizes and colors and you can even buy custom “shoes”.
At the fair also arrive artisans from Pukara (Puno) who bring their clay works among them, the most popular are “toritos” (bulls) that are placed on the roofs of the houses as a symbol of abundance and protection. You can find aromatic candles and various objects used for those who like healing rituals. In addition you can appreciate the works of the most important families of artisans of the city like the Mendivil, Olave and the Merida; who have their own style to represent the main figures of the nativity scene as the Virgin Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi and characters and animals related to the birth of baby Manuelito.
Nowadays the municipality of Cusco is in charge of the organization of the annual fair, where we will be able to appreciate choirs of children singing Andean carols in Quechua and Spanish. In addition a nativity scene contest is held in which the churches, companies and traditional families of Cusco participate. Many Catholics and tourists usually take a walk through each church to appreciate the peculiarities of the nativity scenes that have different themes and can get to occupy a whole room. It is a tradition for the families of Cusco to perform the “building” of the nativity scene in each home, each one with themes and objects according to the preferences of each family. For example, there are Andean nativity scenes where the sacred family wears their own clothes such as ponchos, monteras, Latin skirts and musical instruments such as quenas and charangos.
Also the streets near to the Plaza de Armas are crowded with peddlers that offer different products to celebrate the Christmas Eve where you can buy panetones, wines, among other things.
Many catholic families usually gather at the table near midnight to celebrate together the birth of the baby Jesus with a dinner that can include turkey (prepared in different ways), panetones, chocolate and wine.
Around midnight in the Plaza de Armas and in the city in general it is celebrated with fireworks, bombards and other artifacts. On December 25, the city looks somewhat deserted as people prefer to spend it with the family; so many businesses do not open their doors.
Important things to keep in mind:
– You can get cheaper prices at night as the sellers lower their prices in order to finish their products.
– Always remember to be alert and take care of your belongings, since the thieves take advantage of the agglomeration of people.
– Make the most of buying souvenirs at this fair as they will only be one day.
If you have not planned where to spend Christmas, Cusco is one of the best options and our hostels in Cusco have excellent promotions and quality of service.
We invite you on December 24th to the “Christmas Dinner” that are organized every year in Pirwa Colonial, sharing with other guests as a family. If you prefer a more intimate and complete dinner, we recommend Plus Restaurant, which has a great view of the Plaza de Armas, making it an unforgettable experience. It is important to reserve a table in advance as the restaurants of the Plaza are the most requested.