December is an exciting month full of holiday spirit all over the world: from Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa to St. Lucia Day and Omisoka, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate all month long. Some international holidays are lesser known to us in the United States, but they are definitely worth learning about!
On December 7th, Guatemala celebrates a holiday called La Quema del Diablo, or “Burning the Devil,” a preparatory holiday in anticipation for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This tradition, originating in the 18th century, burns away all the bad from the past year, serving to purify the conceiving of Jesus, as he is to be free from all evil.
According to National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel, the tradition began in Antigua during colonial times, when monasteries would burn a figure of the devil and light fireworks on the Day of the Rosary in October. It was later moved to December when there was a push to celebrate Mary’s triumph over evil.
Locals create papier–mâché or wooden devils and collect old trash and goods they no longer needed before gathering in the street amongst street vendors and food carts and volunteer firefighters who ensure the flames don’t get out of control. The devils are doused in gasoline and set ablaze at 6pm sharp as all the bad experiences, negative feelings and jealousies of the year are reduced to ashes.
As the Guatemalan people honor their patron saint and watch their negativity burn away, they vibrantly celebrate through song and dance, celebrating a La Quema del Diablo as the official kick-off to their Christmas season.
What international holiday traditions do you celebrate and/or share with your students? Let us know in the comments section below!