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Day of the Dead in Guatemala: Giant Kite Festival

If you think about the day of the dead, your mind will probably automatically wonder thinking about the traditional sculls from Mexico. But Guatemala also celebrates this holiday and does it in a completely different way than you should definitely experience at least once. If you want to know more about the day of the dead in Guatemala, and the giant Kite Festival, keep on reading!

Guatemala is known for many events and festivities. But one festival that is celebrated is not experienced anywhere else in the entire world – Kite Festival – Day of the Dead, it’s celebrated on November 1 in Santiago Sacatepeque, a must-visit place in Guatemala. One of the many unique traditions that Guatemalans carry on during the day of the dead is the giant kite festival.

Also, getting to visit a Guatemalan fair is one of the best opportunities to immerse in local culture and taste some delicious food

Cultural Festivals - Day of the Dead Guatemala

Kite Festival in Guatemala

The day is to remember the dead. Over 500 years ago, the tradition started that flying kites as high as possible allows you to commune with the spirits of your loved ones that have passed on. It’s a beautiful celebration and since then has evolved.

Today the kites go from small to huge, with over 30 meters in diameter. These can’t be flown, but are on display as artworks from local villages that get sponsored to represent their message.

The smaller kites, going up to 12 meters in diameter, are flown during the day as a competition. It starts with the small ones in the morning, towards the end of the day when there is more wind.

But aside from the competitions, everyone gets kites and flies them, and it’s a super fun day for families.

How to Celebrate Day of Dead in Guatemala

The people in Santiago Sacatepequez, Guatemala spend all year working, planning, and fundraising for the November first day of the dead festival, definitely a must thing to do in Guatemala, if you have the chance don’t miss this festival.

Every 1st. of November, in order to commemorate the spirits of their deceased loved ones, locals exhibit to the world the artsiest and huge kites that you will ever see. The designs are usually religious, show nationalist depictions, there are some that even show scenes that critique politicians.

Locals from here built extravagant kites or barriletes gigantes and fly them high above the cemeteries as they say it’s a symbolic link between the living and the dead. Some people still believe that kites can carry out messages for their loved ones who passed away long ago.

Cultural Festivals - Day of the Dead Guatemala

Even the graves are astonishingly beautiful too, painted in blue, pink, and green all decorated with different kinds of flowers and loose flower petals are beautifully arranged to form soft carpets.

Every year on November first food vendors and kite artisans flood the local cemetery or football court to display the artwork that took them almost a whole year to build. During the afternoon they will start a competition where they try to get those five or ten-meter tall kites to lift from the ground by taking advantage of the strong winds of the season.

Some even believe that during this one-day spirits of their loved ones come back to earth.

Cultural Festivals - Day of the Dead Guatemala

When it’s time for the spirits to return back to heaven, they once again release the giant kites in the sky for they believe that the kites will guide back their spirits but if the kites were torn by the wind, they are burned inside the cemetery in the hope that the rising smoke will guide the spirits back.

Other Ways that Guatemalans Celebrate the Day of the Dead

This celebration comes hand in hand with s traditional dish. during the day of the dead in Guatemala most locals prepare a huge salad-like dish called Fiambre(one of the most traditional food in Guatemala). It is prepared only once per year. It is one of those things that either people love with a passion or can’t even smell. They serve it along with sweet jocotes, prepared with a sort of spicy honey.

Cultural Festivals - Day of the Dead Guatemala

Some families even pack up cleaning supplies, paint, food, alcohol, and even something to play music on and head over to the cemetery. They spend all day cleaning and decorating the mausoleum or graves where their loved ones are buried. As night starts to fall they all sit around, and have a short and lively family gathering with food, music, and drinks. It basically turns into a party where even the dead get their own plates of food and drinks.

Kites at the Kite Festival in Guatemala

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Each kite has a unique story to tell. It is similar to going to a museum.

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You can study each kite, but with kids it’s gotta be a quickie run through, cause all they want is Cotton Candy and to fly kites.

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They are some of the most amazing things you will ever see for sure.

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This is a peacock!

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More and more artistic kites.

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And now it’s time to buy our own. There are tons of stands like this everywhere. And the kites cost anywhere from $1 – $5. And you can’t even imagine how huge the $5 kites are.

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My little men getting ready to fly their kites.

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These are the kites that are actually flown.

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What we see all day.

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The competitions begin.

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More kites to chose from.

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Ok, so my kids didn’t go for the traditional ones. But they did get fun ones.

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Now the hard part…

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Bonding – this is the most special part of the day

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Fly fly fly away!

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But kites aren’t the only fun of the festival. Who is up for some serious Guatemala Street food?

Have you ever experienced the day of dead Guatemala? Did you enjoy it?

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Cultural Festivals - Day of the Dead Guatemala

Last Updated on November 10, 2022

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