Merida Events, Things to Do and Festivals 2014 / 2015

(Merida, The Andes, Venezuela)




In this strongly Catholic country, most festivals revolve around saints' days and the major religious celebrations, such as Easter and Christmas. The mountain towns surrounding Merida (connected by public buses) also have more than their share of religious events, with annual feasts and holidays honouring their very own patron saints.

Many seasonal events take place throughout Merida, with one of the biggest things to do and enjoy being the Feria del Sol, held the week preceding Ash Wednesday. The remainder of festivities celebrate battles, heroes and other high points in the fight to regain the country's independence from its Spanish colonists, whilst there are also regular bullfights, football matches and even an annual beauty pageant.

Cultural events feature strongly here, and drumming and dance are the heart of all festivals in Merida. The history of traditional dance here is fascinating, as each city, town and region has its own style.


Merida Calendar of Festivals and Events 2014 / 2015



January


  • New Year's Day (Dia de Ano Nuevo) - January 1st, a public holiday throughout Venezuela, when locals enjoy a day of work, relaxing after the raucous partying the night before
  • Day of Epiphany (Dia de Reyes / Los Reyes Magos) - January 6th, a national holiday and family day, with much carol singing in the nearby town of Santo Domingo
  • Fiesta de San Benito - the saint's day celebration on January 12th, honoured with street parties and dancing, as well as a procession and lots of drumming. San Benito is a much-revered figure here and the festivities continue until the end of the month
  • Paradura del Nino - when villagers hide a figure of Jesus and then spend time searching for him, with great celebrations when he is finally discovered

February


  • Los Vassalos de la Candelaria - February 2nd, traditional dances unique to the region of Venezuela are performed in processions along the streets, by both adults and children, as part of the Feria del Sol. As well as the street parades in Merida, further entertainment is on hand at Bailadores, Mucuchies, La Parroquia and La Venta
  • Carnival (Carnaval) - early February, with lively carnival processions through the main streets of the city

March


  • St. Joseph's Day (Dia de San José), March 19th, a public holiday in Venezuela
  • Semana Santa - late March / early April, the sacred Easter (Pascua) / Holy Week, celebrated all over Venezuela beginning on Palm Sunday, in particular around Merida, La Azulita, Chiguara, La Parroquia and Santo Domingo. The whole week sees processions, church services and traditional activities, and Easter Sunday is a time for joyous festivities. Dates change according to the church calendar

April


  • Declaration of Independence (Declaracion de Independencia) - April 19th, a public holiday marking the country's struggle for independence, which started on this day in 1810

May


  • Labour Day (Dia del Trabajador) - May 1st, a national holiday, with various activities taking place around the city's main plazas
  • Los Diablos Danzantes - a unique festival in San Francisco de Yare, held on changing dates each May. As night falls, this normally peaceful town erupts with dancing devils, hypnotic drumming, parades, street bands, music, drinking and feasting
  • Fiesta de San Isidro Labrador - May 15th, honouring the patron saint of farmers, with processions of animals and harvests. Worth checking out are the festivities in nearby Apartaderos, La Azulita, Bailadores, Mucuchies and Tabay

June


  • Batalla de Carabobo (Batalla de Carabobo) - celebrated over almost the entire country on June 24th. This famous battle was the turning-point in Venezuela's struggle for independence from Spanish rule, and the day honours both the fighters and independence itself

July


  • Independence Day - July 5th, the most important national holiday in the country. The Venezuelan Independence Day is marked with parades, fireworks, street celebrations, cultural events, parties and family gatherings
  • Birth of Simon Bolivar (Natalicio del Libertador) - July 24th, a national holiday honouring one of the country's most famous ever leaders
  • Fiesta de Santo Apostol - July 25th, based around Ejido, Jaji and Lagunillas

August


  • Flag Day (Dia de la Bandera) - August 3rd, with lots of flag waving all over the city on this Venezuelan holiday
  • Coronation of Our Lady of the Snows - a Marian festival which takes place on August 8th. Festivities include religious street processions carrying the image of the Virgin Mary and masses in the churches

September


  • Fiesta de Nuestra Senora del Valle - taking place in Margarita town, where this is the local saint's day celebration. A procession winds round the town with the image of Saint Mary being carried by local men. Masses are heard and family gatherings held, as well as street parties and dances, which go on until late at night
  • Los Negros de San Geronimo - September 30th, based in nearby Santo Domingo

October


  • Virgen de la Rosario - held in Maracaibo (just under three hours away), with a street parade made up of local men carrying the revered image of Mary the Mother of Christ. Once the celebratory mass has taken place, crowds gather on the streets to dance, sing and party
  • Discovery of America Day - October 12th, this day is all about Christopher Columbus and his arrival in the Americas at the end of the 15th century
  • Fiesta de San Rafael - October 24th, with family friendly festivities in neighbouring San Rafael

November


  • All Saint's Day - November 1st, known here as the Day of the Dead (Dia de Todos los Santos), heralding the arrival of family members from afar to honour both their ancestors and recently deceased relatives. Church services and family gatherings predominate

December


  • La Fiesta de las Velas (Candlelight Festival) - begins at 19:00 on December 7th, when all lights are turned off and thousands of candles illuminate the streets and homes with their soft glow. This day welcomes in the Christmas (Navidad) season
  • Farewell to the Old Year / New Year's Eve (Despedida del Ano Viejo) - December 31st, culminating in the burning of giant puppets at midnight







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