Santurantikuy: Cusco’s Christmas Eve Fair

Already Cusco’s plazas are festively winking with Christmas lights and garlands along the balconies, but it is each December24th that Cusco’s Main Square really comes alive with Peru’s largest folk art fair- Santurantikuy (Saints’ Sale). From throughout Cusco and surrounding regions hundreds of artisans gather, bringing with them their pieces for sale. Some say they begin to prepare for the fair up to 6 months in advance!

Santurantikuy’s main product from the period directly after the Spanish conquest through relatively recent times was the Niño Manuelito (Enmanuel, the Child Christ) in many variations, and other characters for the adornment of holiday nativities. The most traditional incarnation of the Niño Manuelito is as a young child sitting in a wooden chair with one foot raised and showing a wound. Buyers will ask him for a wish and insert a thorn in the wound which doesn’t get taken out until the wish is granted! It used to be that altars were present and the fair finished in the early afternoon. Nowadays, the wares have become quite varied, including decorative ceramics, wood and barkwork, silverwork, stonework, leatherwork, sculptures and more alongside traditional nativity pieces.

Some might try to take advantage of the crowding, so keep a close watch on your pockets and possessions in order to ensure that you can enjoy the event without any negative experiences. The atmosphere is lively, there’ll be food vendors offering Cusco’s brand of street food, and as the day continues and the weather cools you can buy some ponche or hot chocolate to heat up. If you’ll be in Cusco on December 24th, don’t miss it!

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