Autumn equinox, the celebrations of the native peoples of America

The indigenous Andean communities of America celebrate the Pawkar Raymi festival on the autumn equinox. The preparations begin annually in January, celebrating March 21, to thank and share the products that Pachamama or Mother Earth gives them each year.

The indigenous peoples of the Americas are famous throughout the world for their ability to accurately calculate each solstice and equinox, unlike the Western European world, which later described these calendars to modern science. The holiday coincides with the Christian celebration of carnival, because many indigenous festivals and religious celebrations are held according to the solar and lunar cycles.

For those who lived in America before it was called that, these astrological calendars were completely tied to agriculture. And from here arises his worldview: a way of understanding the world based on respect for nature and society.

autumn equinox

Pawkar Raymi, Andean festival on the autumn equinox

Pawcar Raymi is an ancient festival in the Andes that coincides with the autumn equinox. Pawkar Raymi comes from the Quechua language and means “festival of flowering” or “many colors.” The Pawkar Raymi is also known, in some communities, by the name of Sisa Pacha (flowering time) or TumariPukllay (ceremonial game with water and flowers). This is a celebration of the ancestors of the indigenous peoples of the region of the Andes, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and other Latin American countries.

This festival is associated with the time of sowing and harvest, there are four festivals that are repeated year after year and are completely related to food and fertility: Pawkar Raymi, Inti Raymi, Kulla Raymi and Kapak Raymi.
During this festival people give thanks to Pachamama (Mother Earth) for the harvest. Colorful clothing is part of the tradition: the colors symbolize the richness of the land.

All the rituals and ceremonies performed in Pawkar Raymi aim to maintain the harmony of life: for these people, the land, the animals, the mountains and even the rivers have a soul and together they form a whole.

Over the centuries, the celebration or festival of Pawkar Raymi has undergone some transformations in terms of its rituality today.

autumn equinox

How the autumn equinox is celebrated

In the town of Peguche, located near the city of Otavalo, the first day of the Pawkar Raymi festivities of a total of 10 days, which is the duration of said celebration, includes the meeting of cultures, thus reaching cross an entire generational gap and also all festival attendees meet in one area.

As part of the celebrations, a series of cultural and sporting events are included, in addition to the choice of the Queen or Pawkar Ñusta Festival. Likewise, a parade begins the festivities, with music from the band. Likewise, some dance groups and sports teams participate in the parade that runs throughout the city while spectators throw flowers.

Furthermore, participants can be seen dressed in colorful traditional costumes, both men and women, some carrying large wicker baskets full of fresh produce on their heads and others carrying a large jug of chicha, a traditional corn drink.

The parade culminates with a display of iconic food by the wife of the festival's “prioste,” followed by a grand social event for parade participants.

Within the framework of the festival, raising awareness about the importance of water in growing food is a hallmark, which is why throwing buckets and launching water balloons has become a tradition.

Children participate in this celebration or cultural event by recreating traditional ceremonies such as Kichwa weddings and dance groups entertaining the audience. Spiritually, the festival includes an ancient ritual called Tumarina, in which a local priest blesses buckets of flowers in water, which are then used to anoint residents and visitors with blessings of happiness for the future.

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