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  • Santurantikuy is a Christmas fair which happens in Cusco ever since the vice-regency in the 16th Century. The fair lasts all day from 4am when the artisans start to arrive with their coloured blankets full of crafts to sell, until well into the night of the 24th of December at the central Plaza de Armas.

    Santurantikuy literally means ‘Selling of the Saints’ in the Quechua language. In Cusco, a city characterized with deep Andean roots, the image of baby Jesus is adored throughout the whole year especially during Christmas Eve. Ceramics of this religious nature dominate the market, which according to the artisans, requires around 6 months of preparation. The spiritual devotion is best described in the words of this Santurantikuy spokesman: “to create one has to believe, and this faith of the Andean community is fomenting the hope to keep alive traditions, culture and even humanity”.

    The Santurantikuy market in Cusco, an Andean Christmas affair

    When I started my internship about 3 months ago I knew already I was going to spend Christmas in Peru. I did have aims of eating ‘peru’ in Peru, until I realised that this Portuguese word for turkey is not the same in Spanish. Instead, I need to find ‘pavo’ in Peru. With all the invites I have received from my colleagues at Dos Manos travel agency in Cusco and their ‘big’ sister AMAUTA Spanish School in Cusco, that shouldn’t be an impossible quest. In between now and then, however, there is much festivity to be had in and around the school’s premises.

    A Brit’s perspective on Christmas time in Cusco!

    The first item on the festive agenda is the company’s Christmas party, known as a posada or in this case a ‘pollada’. Whilst online dictionaries haven’t helped me, I have deduced that this is a big chicken feast which is almost the same as turkey anyway. The staff, teachers and employees of AMAUTA and Dos Manos have been put in charge with selling tickets to the students at 10 Soles a pop. This has caused a number of interesting sales tactics between staff (mock-bribing by withholding food not excluded!) to avoid having to pay for the difference in tickets that aren’t sold by the end of the week. Surely if I have 5 tickets left over and I pay for them, I will be entitled to 5 courses of chicken! Whilst I would be the fattest man in Cusco if this came to pass, at least I could pull off a half-convincing Father Christmas!


    Christmas in Cusco

    Christmas in Cusco – this means Christmas lights, hot chocolate and Paneton all around the city.

    During this time of year Cusco is bright and busy, full of small Christmas markets and people getting into the Christmas spirit. Every Sunday morning plazas are filled with locals and people shopping for Peruvian gifts, textiles, incense and candles. But still, no comparison to all the stressed out people running and hysterically looking for Christmas gifts. The Peruvians do really enjoy the Christmas time as a period to meet their beloved friends and family and enjoy the Christmas spirit.

    Christmas in Cusco is characterized by the birth of Jesus and this is depicted in the numerous Nacimientos found outside all the churches in town – 3D constructed murals of Nativity scenes with Jesus, Mary and other deciphels. Every church and almost every Cusceno household has one of these, and in the weeks leading up to Christmas, plants and pieces for these murals are sold on the streets and in markets. Most Peruvians are Catholics and churches can be found on almost every block in Cusco. Andeans have a strong religious devotion and Christmas is found to take on elements of traditions of each region of Peru. Further in the Andes festivities often continue for two weeks, until the “arrival of the three wise men”.


    Do not miss the opportunity to study Spanish in Cusco during the magical time of Christmas and experience a different way of celebrating this holiday!

    THE AMAUTA Christmas Program includes extra activities such as a visit to the unique Santurantikuy, the Andean Christmas market. We will also visit several churches where you can observe the impressive, traditional Nacimientos, which are representations of the birth of Jesus. The program includes a Traditional Christmas Dinner with a Peruvian Family, a unique cultural immersion.