Takanakuy: The Christmas Day Peruvian Fighting Ritual

Takanakuy: The Christmas Day Peruvian Fighting Ritual

Every Christmas Day, the province of Chumbivilcas in the department of Cusco gathers to settle old scores with their cloth-wrapped fists. The annual event, called Takanakuy, is rooted in pre-Hispanic and even pre-Incan Andean tradition and the Chumbivilcas community treats it as such. Many of the men, women, elderly, and children who face off in the ring do so out of a sense of tradition as much as for the opportunity to resolve the year’s build-up of tension and conflict between neighbors, family, and friends. The timing, on Christmas Day, is no coincidence either.

Christmas Peace By Way of Fist Fight
Fist Fight

Fist Fight, Photo Source: Nicolas Villaume

Though at first glance an organized marathon of fist fights may sound like anything but what should occur on Christmas Day, the purpose of Takanakuy is to restore peace in the community on a date that has come to symbolize peace. The regulated fights provide an outlet for community members to confront their conflicts head-on so as to let them go once and for all. In the spirit of the event, every fight begins and ends with a mandatory handshake or hug and, though a fighter can appeal the result, many simply call their conflict settled and resolved. Once all of the fists have been thrown, the community celebrates their newfound peace through song, dance, and food.

Unique Takanakuy Traditions
Unique Traditions

Unique Traditions, Photo Source: Nicolas Villaume

From specific music and costume to endlessly flowing alcohol, Takanakuy, like any Peruvian festival or holiday, comes with its own unique traditions.

The Fighter’s Dress
Fighter’s Dress

Fighter’s Dress, Photo Source: Nicolas Villaume

Horse-riding gear, brightly colored Peruvian ski masks, and dead animals are among the go-to costumes for those participating in the fights. Every fighter selects one of five traditional Takanakuy ‘archetypes’ to portray, including the ski-masked majeno, the dead animal clad quarawatanna, the silk cape and crowned negro, the locust-resembling langos, and the nonspecific q’ara gallo.

The Huaylias de Chumbivilcas
Huaylias Chumbivilcas

Huaylias Chumbivilcas, Photo Source: Nicolas Villaume

Accompanying the Takanakuy event is the “Huaylias de Chumbivilcas” song and dance, which has been declared as part of Peruvian national heritage in 2016. A fusion of music and dance, the huaylias has woven its way into the fabric of many of the region’s most important ceremonies and rituals, most notably the Takanakuy celebration on Christmas. On December 25th, the music and dance is repeated on loop as the costumed dancers and singers parade to the town’s center for a front row seat to the fights.

Live the Peruvian Tradition on a Tailor-made Trip to Peru
Peruvian Tradition

Peruvian Tradition, Photo Source: Nicolas Villaume

Perhaps an organized Christmas Day brawl isn’t quite your style. Not to worry. Christmas in Peru is a magical time of year to plan your visit for more reasons than Takanakuy. There are chocolatadas and Christmas markets to experience as well as elaborate nativity scenes and Christmas Eve fireworks displays to admire. Get in touch with a Kuoda Travel Designer today to begin planning your unforgettable custom vacation in Peru at Christmastime.

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