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Uruguay Travel Guide

Uruguay — Festivals and Events

Uruguay has a host of lively festivals which offer visitors wonderful insight into this colorful nation. Many events are religious in nature, such as Epiphany and Holy Week, but the country also observes regular holidays such as New Year’s Day and Labor Day, while Independence Day in August marks the country’s break from the strict rule of the Empire of Brazil back in the early 1800’s.

Epiphany (Epifanía)

While everybody else is recovering from Christmas and New Year attempting to stick to their resolutions and hitting the gym, the Uruguayan’s are preparing for the next big festival on their calendar, Epifanía. Held on the eve of January 6, it is a big family event with presents exchanged and large meals prepared. Traditionally it marks the beginning of the country’s carnival season.

Candlemas (Día de la Candelaria)

A religious holiday celebrating the presentation of Jesus to the temple 40 days after his birth on February 2, many households hold parties and colorful processions at Candlemas. Dancing and live music are popular events held throughout the day.

Carnaval and Las Llamadas

Late February/early March see the most spectacular festival of Latin America’s calendar, and is one of the best times of the year to visit Uruguay. No matter where you go, it is virtually impossible to escape the party once it is in full-swing. The most elaborate and hedonistic celebrations occur in Montevideo where everyone pulls out their fancy costumes and puts away their inhibition. The dancing, drink, and debauchery goes on for days, with music, dancing, fireworks, and huge parades. Las Llamadas is celebrated by Uruguay’s black community during the same week.

Holy Week (Semana Santa)

Another big family event starting on Easter weekend, Semana Santa is a time when most Uruguayan’s head back to their relative’s homes or go on vacation. It is vivaciously celebrated in the central city Montevideo, where many parades are held, and is one of the capital’s most significant festivals.

Natalicio de Artigas

Held on June 19, Natalicio de Artigas celebrates and commemorates the life of the father of Uruguayan independence, Jose Gervasio Artigas. It’s a great day to be in Uruguay, with pride and nationalism spilling out on to the streets of every city, town, and village in the country. Parades, street festivals, dancing, and music provide a truly exhilarating patriotic experience.

Independence Day (Día de la Independencia)

One of Uruguay’s most revered public holidays, the anniversary of the country’s independence from the Spanish and Portuguese colonial power achieved in 1825 falls on August 25. The festivities start during the afternoon and in certain places such as Montevideo, rage on until the early hours of the morning.

All Saints’ Day/Day of the Dead (Día de Todos los Santos/Día de Muertos)

Bizarre to the rest of the world, Dia de Muertos is, nevertheless, one of South America’s and Uruguay’s biggest celebrations. Families visit the graveyards to pay respect to loved ones, but in typical Latino fashion, the festival is vibrant and colorful, with skeleton-themed paraphernalia adorning the streets. All Saint’s Day, which remembers the patron saints and dead infants, is celebrated on November 1, with the Day of the Dead following on the next day.

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