The Todos Santos celebration (All Saints Day) is a celebration held in the memory of our loved ones who passed. This celebration brings entire families together to honor them and keep them in memory with food and drinks. This may sound like an odd celebration but it is one of the most special holidays to Peruvias today.
When is celebrated?
All Saint’s Day is celebrated a day after Halloween. This means that each year, this celebration takes place on November 1st as it does in most catholic-rooted countries in Latin America and other parts of the world.
Why is it celebrated?
All Saint’s Day has European origins. This festivity arrived in Cusco with the Spanish conquest, and the viceroy Francisco Toledo. During his order, he prohibited any of the native celebrations to do with the dead, which consisted of big feasts and the taking out of their mummies for parading through the town’s main streets. Today, this is a great example of how native communities celebrated their deceased well before European colonization.
Over the years, the celebration of the dead in Peru has adopted Catholic rituals similar to those of other countries in South America. However, there are reminicents of the past native celebrations. Most people in Cusco still believe that on November 1st all the dead return from beyond to visit their relatives. It is for this reason that most Cusquenian families take the time to visit the cemeteries and take small gifts of flowers, music drinks and food to their deceased. As per Andean belief, all the dead then return to the beyond on November 2nd, after having enjoyed the company of their families and their gifts.
How is it celebrated in Cusco?
This festivity is celebrated in the company of family members. The most common tradition in Cusco is to enjoy a delicious lechon with tamales, roasted pig with corn tamales. Families visit the cemeteries to honour their relatives and children are gifted t’anta wawas and pan caballo.
Typical dishes of Todos Santos?
The most iconic dish fir the Todos Santos celebration is the lechon with tamales. This roasted pig accompanied with corn-based tamales is characterized by its crispy skin, tender and juicy meat. It is very common for families to enjoy this dish at home, in restaurants and out in main plazas and markets, where vendors prepare this local dish for the festivity. It is often accompanied with a hot cup of coffee or tea.
T’anta wawas and pan caballo -“horsebread bread” are also an iconic aspect of this festivity. The origin of this sweet bread can be dated back to farther than the times of the Incas. Back then, the t’anta bread, or bread in the form of a baby, was baked as an offering for the deceased, as a symbol of the renewal of life. This resulted from the Andean belief that death is only a continuation of life and not an ending. Today, the t’anta wawa is given by parents and grandparents to the children of the household. Tender wawas or little girls wrapped in a sweet blanket of dough and candies are intended for girls, while an adorable but elegant horse with a baked body decorated with candies is for boys.
Cusco is a city of colourful traditions. Plan your next visit to Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu with us and don’t miss out on any celebration!