Santuranticuy, Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Cusco
Celebrated on December 24 is one of Cusco’s most colourful festivals, Santuranticuy or “The sale of saints”. The practice was begun by the Bethlemite order of Franciscan Friars at the time of the Peruvian Viceroyalty (16th Century) and has now become one of the most exuberant of the many festivals celebrated in the former Inka capital. Coming from nearby villages in the days leading up to Dec 24, artisans and vendors set up stalls in Cusco’s main square, the Plaza de Armas. The wares on offer include a vast selection of Nativity scenes, figurines of Catholic saints and altars on which to position them. Locals wander the stalls looking for just the right addition for their home.
The patron of the festival is Niño Manuelito, the Andean baby Jesus, whose is represented with white skin and black hair, dressed in elaborately decorated costume.
Nativity scenes are set up in the family home with Mary, Joseph and Biblical animals surrounding an empty crib. In the evening, families gather at home to eat and drink until midnight when festivities culminate in the placement of the figure of baby Jesus in the crib. Thereafter, prayers are made, gifts are exchanged and fireworks are set off all over Cusco. Standing in the Plaza de Armas is a wonderful place to see the colourful burst of light coming from villages in the surrounding hills.
A few days later, on New Year’s Eve, vast crowds of locals and tourists gather in the Plaza de Armas to enjoy the festive atmosphere. Children and teenagers let off firecrackers and at the midnight the municipality puts on a massive display of fireworks over the plaza.