Indigenous New Year

From the 21st to the 24th of June several indigenous communities hold their festivities to receive a new year and celebrate the return of the sun.

Ibar Silva | Flickr
Ibar Silva | Flickr
Versión en Español Año Nuevo Indígena

This June 21 not only marks the beginning of winter, since this day until June 24th different indigenous communities in our country will carry out their celebrations of the Indigenous New Year, which occurs at the same time that the Winter Solstice. This date represents the return of the Sun to the Earth. The light returns, the nights will become shorter and the days longer over the next six months.

For the indigenous communities, the solstices and equinoxes always played an important role, based on the behaviour of the sun they were able to understand nature, which was very important for their agriculture and cattle. It is a period considered as a new beginning; the harvesting has finished and now the land prepares itself for the sowing season. The sprouts begin to appear, the animals change their fur and the rivers grow due to the rain and the thaw.

Several communities begin their New Year rituals by thanking Mother Earth and Father Sun, asking for a productive year and full prosperity for their cattle and harvests. The Aymara people celebrate the “Machap Mara” or division of the year. During this celebration, gifts are offered to Mother Earth or Pachamama to reestablish harmony and to thank her for her generosity. All of this is done in a spirit of community, along with dances, music and traditional food.

The quechua community celebrates this date under the name of “Inti Raymi” where they thank nature and the heavenly star Inti, ritual inherited from the Inca culture. The Kolla community also celebrates this occasion under the name of “Huata Mosoj”, celebration that takes place during the morning and is carried out by a Yatiri, wise person chosen by the spiritual forces.

Another community at the north of Chile that carries a celebration is the Atacameños, naming it “Likan Antai”. During this event they lit a big bonfire to fight the cold weather and to gather around it, reciting in their kunza language “Aijate, aijate al jumor”, meaning “move closer to the fire”, while praying to the Pata Hoiri (Mother Earth)

This is also an important date for the Rapa Nui people. They celebrate the “Aringa Ora o Koro”, which can be translate as “The living face of the patriarch”. During this rite they celebrate the beginning of a new season and life’s umbilical cord, as a symbol of fertility and productivity. They also pay homage to the heads of the families, along with the lineages and relatives of the community.

One of the celebrations that has gained a lot of popularity is the one of the mapuche community, often referred to as “We Tripantu” or “Wiñoi Tripantu”, which means “the new coming of the sun” in mapudungun. It is usually celebrated during the eve of June 24th, where everyone gathers in one house and each attendant brings their own yewüm (their collaboration, it can be food or presents), and as a group their share stories and tales of their culture. They also perform ceremonial dances around a big bonfire and practice different traditional games, while also enjoying traditional mapuche food, such as muday or mültrun.

When the dawn comes the first thing they do is go to the river to wash out everything that is old along with the bad spirits, then they gather around to receive the sun and they shout “¡Akuy we tripantu!” and “Wiñoi tripantu” (“The New Year arrived!” and “The sunrise comes back!”). During the rest of the day they carry out different activities to start the new year with prosperity.

This post is also available in Spanish