Bajada de los Reyes Festival
Closely related to Christmas, the popular Spanish festivity known in Spain as “Dia de los Reyes magos” on the 6th of January is also widely celebrated in towns across the Andes. The celebration marks The Epiphany, which sees the visit of the three wise men, or the three kings, to the birthplace of Jesus. In Spain many families celebrate by giving gifts, much as the wise men did to the baby Jesus.
The Ephiphany Celebrations
As with many celebrations in the Andes, the celebration of “Dia de los Reyes magos” incorporates both native and colonial traditions alike. In pre-Columbian times, January was a very important month; being the height of the rainy season it brought water vital for growing crops, and joyous festivities marked the occasion. These celebrations subsequently became incorporated with the celebration of “Dia de los Reyes magos” that was introduced by the Spanish when they arrived in Peru; apart from anything else, there was the resemblence of giving gifts, much as the the rains gave the gift of nourishment and sustainance.
Celebrating bajada de los Reyes festival in Ollantaytambo
One of the biggest celebrations of the day is in the town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. Known as the Bajada de Reyes de Ollantaytambo, the occasion is marked with a colourful procession of El Niño Jesús de Marcacocha – the baby jesus from the church of Marcacocha – which is brought from the valley of Patakancha to Ollantaytambo on the day before, the 5th of January. Locals from communities in the surrounding hills and valleys descend on the town with the effigy of Jesus to take part in the festivities, which begin on the 5th and last throughout the night.
On the 6th there is a full day of traditional and folkloric dancing on the streets and the main square of Ollantaytambo, while El Niño Jesús de Marcacocha is paraded around the town and taken to the town church to be blessed. There are all different types of traditional dance, as well as feasting on traditional foods, and locals, tourists and townsfolk alike take part. There is also a special mass held in the church, and in the afternoon there is bull fight beside the ruins of Ollantaytambo.
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