Celebrations of the Winter Solstice

June 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

In the northern hemisphere, June 21st marks the first day of summer and the longest day of the year.  In Seattle the sun came up this morning at 5:11am and will set this evening at 9:11pm, residents will enjoy 16 hours day light today.  In the southern hemisphere it marks the first day of winter.   Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands are located along the equator, there days are relatively the same length year round 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark.

With comparatively little change throughout the year, you might think the solstice would be of little importance.  However to the indigenous people of Peru and Ecuador the winter solstice is a time for great celebration.  Prior to the arrival of the Spanish the Sun was the major god.  The Incas created a solar calendar with 365 days.  Their most important celebration of the year was Inti Raymi the festival of the sun during the winter solstice.  During the winter solstice the large potatoes were harvested and people would come from throughout the empire to celebrate in Cusco.

The solstices were of great importance to the cultures of Ecuador even prior to the arrival of the Incas.  The Cara culture who lived in the  highlands of Ecuador between 950 AD and 1550 AD built adobe pyramids near the equator between Quito and Otavalo.  They would gather at the pyramids to celebrate the solstices and the equinoxes to celebrate the passage of the sun.  During the celebrations shamans would hold ceremonies to bless both the people and the upcoming harvest.

When the Spanish arrived in South America they needed to change the culture of the local people in order to dominate them.  The made certain festivals illegal and changed the reason for celebration.  Despite the changes made by the Spanish this time of year hosts some of the most colorful indigenous festivals of the year in both Ecuador and Peru.

Discover more on the Festivals:

Inti Raymi at Cochasqui


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