The Peruvian December Solstice

Take part in the wonderful celebration of the Peruvian December Solstice on December 21st. An authentic part of the tapestry made up from Peruvian identity, this day is steeped in history and records show that it has been commemorated since the 15th century. The day marks the separation of two months which were used to honour the sun god (Inti). The two months are known as Capac Raymi (Royal Feast) and Capac Raymi Camay Quilla (Royal Feast, Festival of the Moon.), while the sun is at its strongest.

Capac Raymi falls in the middle of the Peruvian rainy season when normally the sun and moon couldn’t be seen as clearly, while the month of Capac Raymi Camay Quilla was celebrated when the Incas were waiting for a new moon. During the days of the next luminous full moon, there were festivals around the Inca Empire, with some lasting up to seven days.

December Solstice in Peru used to last months at a time

The length of these sacred celebrations changed year-on-year. If the new moon arrived early after the solstice, on December 21st, celebrations could last 22 days; but if it was late, they could last up to a staggering 52 days. The festivities for the full moon would then not take place in Camay Quilla but during the following month instead.

The December Solstice is during Peru's rainy season

The observance of the December solstice also marked an important event for the noble boys of the Inca Empire. The month preceding was dedicated to the initiation rituals, where the boys’ ears would be pierced allowing for the large ear spools worn by Inca royalty to be inserted. This was an incredibly symbolic way of commemorating the coming of age for the potential future leaders of the Inca Empire.

During the solstice revellers pay homage to the four elements

While rituals like this no longer take place in modern Peru, there are still festivities in Peruvian towns to mark the occasion. Many combine Inca and Christian elements in their festivities: they begin their celebration of Navidad (Christmas) and observe the December solstice. Today, if you happen to be in Cusco for the December Solstice, you will find yourself in the middle of a melee of parades, friendly crowds, day drinking and of course, an obligatory Pisco Sour or two!

Festivals and days of celebration take place throughout the year in Peru commemorating several events. Read about the Inti Raymi festival, which marks the June solstice, where performances aim to re-enact the original ceremony, pulling together some of the most incredible talents in Peru, with 500 actors, dancers and musician, or El Senor de los Milagros, remembering the events that transpired following a life-changing earthquake which took place in Lima and Callao in the 17th century, and also The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, marking the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and is celebrated on December 8th annually. To find out more about festivals in Peru please visit our blog. Discover more about Inkaterra by visiting Inkaterra.com