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Top 10 Most Important Festivals of Oaxaca: Tradition and Celebration

In Oaxaca, there are festivities that you must experience as they are unmissable, full of joy, colors, and are considered part of the culture and traditions in this beautiful, magical state.

Among the inhabitants of Oaxaca, there are festivities that are already considered a tradition. These celebrations stand out for showcasing the impressive festive legacy of the Oaxacan people through folklore, music, religion, and the arts.

Below, we present you with a list of 10 festivals that Oaxacans themselves consider unmissable events, experiences you must live at least once in your lifetime. We’ve already heard about the Guelaguetza, but there are also other festivals worthy of mention. These celebrations are open to the public, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the communities and participate in them.

Traditional Vigils in the Isthmus Region of Tehuantepec

Traditional Vigils in the Isthmus Region of Tehuantepec

In the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region, vigils are held in honor of the patron saints of each locality. In Juchitán, it is dedicated to San Vicente Ferrer; in Ciudad de Ixtepec, to San Jerónimo Doctor; in Ixtaltepec, to Santa Rita and the Assumption of Mary; in Chihuitan, to Santo Domingo, and so on in each town, celebrating their main festivities. These gatherings take place during the nights and are lively with music bands, musical groups, and an abundance of typical regional cuisine. The vigils extend until dawn, and it is mandatory to wear the traditional attire of the region.

The entrance to these festivities is a case of beer, which is enjoyed throughout the night accompanied by mistela and mezcal. Among them all, the May vigils are the most famous and outstanding.

The Mayordomías

"The mayordomía" Oaxacan tradition

The mayordomía is a form of devotion to a religious image that is manifested through a prominent popular celebration bearing the same name. Those in charge of this festivity, known as mayordomos, are responsible for organizing all aspects of the party and assume all associated expenses.

This celebration would not be complete without a generous banquet offered to the entire community, where food is shared and bonds between participants are strengthened. It is an opportunity for everyone to gather and celebrate in an atmosphere of joy and devotion to the religious image in question.

Holy Week in Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán

Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán from Oaxaca

Now, if you wish to immerse yourself in one of the most deeply rooted traditions of the Catholic religion in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca, we recommend attending the celebrations in Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán. This charming town welcomes you with its imposing Dominican temple, which fills with visitors during Holy Week.

Admirers of the traditional dances of Yanhuitlán gather in the temple to witness these colorful manifestations. Additionally, on Holy Thursday, the local museum opens its doors for the mayordomos to change the attire of the ancient archangels, who will parade through the streets of the town during the night of Good Friday. It is an unmissable experience to immerse yourself in the rich religious culture of the region.


"party of the blacks" Celebration

The mountains give us the colorful carnivals, and here two of the most representative of the state stand out:

Silacayoapan, located in the Mixteca Sierra, celebrates a carnival originally known as the “party of the blacks.” In this festivity, dancers represent coastal mulattos by painting themselves with charcoal and ashes, and then using masks that are now emblematic. The music accompanying these celebrations is the renowned Mixtec chilena, which fills the atmosphere with joy and rhythm.

On the other hand, the carnival of San Martín Ticajete is famous for its oiled devils with bells, known as “ink devils.” These devils represent a parody of a wedding. During this carnival, a contest of masks carved in wood is also held, showcasing the craftsmanship skills of talented local artisans.

Witches’ Tuesdays in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán

In Xoxocotlán, Witches’ Tuesdays are experienced during the 5 Tuesdays of Lent in a traditional festival. This festivity commemorates the construction of the temple dedicated to Santa Elena de la Cruz, where the women of the town used to bring tamales and atoles to the men working on the stone construction. Back then, they used witches or kerosene lamps to illuminate themselves, hence the name Witches’ Tuesdays. Approximately 40 years ago, this tradition transformed into the current festival, where besides enjoying tamales and atoles of various flavors, concerts by local and international artists can be enjoyed.

Muertadas and Parades

"Muertadas" oaxacan tradition

Muertadas are celebrated on the first two days of November. Cemeteries and streets are filled with music, dances, and ingenious costumes to remember those who accompanied us in life but have passed away.

The parades start around nine o’clock at night with the Day of the Dead Parade. During the procession, houses are visited where banda music is played, and humorous and mischievous verses related to the characters and events of the year are sung.

This route includes parades, music, and performances by characteristic characters such as the dead, the widow, death, devils, and grandparents, among others. The night culminates in the early hours of November 2nd with the entrance to the cemetery, where the deceased are honored, and those wearing costumes remove their masks.

November Festivals in Puerto Escondido

Puerto Escondido, one of the youngest cities in Oaxaca located on the coast, comes to life in November with its festivities celebrating the pride of being coastal. The festival is a burst of energy with the sailfish tournament, the Coastal Dance Festival, and various cultural events. Additionally, internationally renowned concerts are enjoyed while delighting in refreshing drinks, enjoying the beautiful beaches, and marveling at the moon that illuminates the festive nights. It is an unforgettable experience that combines fun, culture, and the charm of the coastal environment.

Samaritan Day

"Samaritan Day" celebration

Samaritan Day is celebrated in Oaxaca on the fourth Friday of Lent, three weeks before Good Friday. This festival has its roots in the biblical story in which a woman offered water to Jesus at Jacob’s well, in the city of Sicar. Oaxaca is the only state that keeps this tradition alive, which consists of giving refreshing flavored waters and delicious regional ice creams. The most typical flavors in the Samaritan are rice horchata, hibiscus, and prickly pear. Fresh waters with chilacayota, a variety of pumpkin grown in the region, are also prepared during the festival; people place large pots representing the wells, some decorated with real bricks and others made of paper simulating bricks, all under palm arches adorned with bougainvillea flowers.

Tejate Fair

Tejate, an ancestral beverage made with corn and cocoa, known as “the drink of the gods,” is a true symbol of Oaxaca, which is why it has its own fair. This festival takes place during Palm Sunday in San Andrés Huayapam, located about 25 minutes from downtown Oaxaca.

During this fair, visitors have the opportunity to taste and enjoy authentic tejate, as well as learn more about its history and preparation. Additionally, cultural and traditional activities are carried out that highlight the importance of this beverage in Oaxacan culture. It is a celebration that pays homage to the richness and culinary traditions of the region.

Radish Fair

"The Night of the Radishes" event

The contest is held annually on December 23rd, where participants demonstrate their creativity by creating designs mainly using radishes, totomoxtle, or immortelle flowers, the latter known for its ability to retain its color even after drying.

At the end of the contest, the most outstanding exhibitors are awarded in an atmosphere full of music and splendor. This party has become so popular that the estimated waiting time to enter the exhibition area is four to five hours. It is a celebration that combines artistic talent, tradition, and the excitement of competition, attracting crowds eager to witness the surprising works of art made from vegetables.

Disfruta las raíces del mezcal, la bebida espiritual más antigua de México desde Quiegolani.

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