Discover the Splendor of Guatemalan Giant Kite Tradition
In most Latin American countries, Dia de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead is a solemn occasion to remember those who have passed on. However, in Guatemala, it's a time for high spirits and celebrations.
Reaching for the Sky: Giant Kites for All Saints Day in Guatemala
All Saints Day in Guatemala is a celebration of the lives of the saints and of their successes. It is a day to remember those who have passed, to give thanks for their lives, and to celebrate the continuation of their legacy. It is a day to celebrate all those who have shown you kindness, who have loved you and cared for you, and who have gone before you. In Guatemala, families traditionally visit cemeteries and reunite at the graves of their loved ones. They tend to the graves, taking time to decorate them with beautiful flowers, palms, pine needles, and wreaths. Families will also share a meal together in the cemetery—typically it’s the favorite meal of their loved one. November 1st is also the only day of the year that the traditional Guatemalan dish fiambre is served. Fiambre is a salad that is served cold and it can be made up of over 50 ingredients. It’s a must-try if you ever get the opportunity.
Winds of Change and Kite Flying Tradition
November marks the arrival of winds characteristic of the new season. These winds create perfect conditions for kite flying, and in Guatemala, kite flying takes on a special significance. Indigenous people have used kites to communicate and unite with their deceased loved ones, a tradition dating back more than 3,000 years. According to our elders, the impact of the wind against the kites also takes away bad spirits. If you visit Guatemala near Día de Todos los Santos, you will see kites for sale on almost every street corner, children flying kites, and people making kites.
Giant Kites: A Spectacle of Art and Tradition
To mark this special celebration, on November 1st of every year, the people of both Santiago Sacatepéquez and Sumpango, Guatemala, put together giant kites to fly during the All Saints Day Kite Festival. The vibrantly colored designs on the kites, made of cloth and paper with bamboo frames, depict religious or folkloric themes and they are flown in the nearby Sacatepéquez cemetery to honor the dead.
These kites are true masterpieces, built by local communities throughout the year. They can be several stories tall and often take the shape of peacocks, owls, or butterflies. These kites are not just works of art; they carry powerful messages addressing contemporary social issues like the environment, women's rights, and child protection. The building of the kites is a painstaking process, with every part created using nature's bounty. The glue is a mixture of yucca flower, lemon peel, and water, ropes are made of the maguey plant, and the tails are woven cloth.
The kites flown in Sumpango and Santiago are more than just beautiful displays; they are a form of collective art that represents a sense of identity. This ancient tradition has become an art form in itself, with intricate patterns and designs meticulously created for these kites. The festival has gained global recognition, drawing thousands of tourists who come to witness the majestic size and beauty of these kites.
A Fusion of Cultures and Beliefs
Día de Todos Los Santos is rooted in both Mayan and Spanish religious beliefs. Historians believe it was initially a Mayan celebration of death and their ancestors. With the arrival of the Spanish, the festivity also incorporated Christian elements. Today, it's celebrated on November 1st, corresponding to the Christian day of All Saints or Día de Todos Los Santos Difuntos. In Guatemala, children often fly kites as a way to offer their prayers for their deceased relatives. People also fly kites on All Saints Day because it is believed that the sky is like a map, and the kites help to show where the souls of the deceased are.
A unique tradition called "El Viaje del Escorpión" involves attaching a folded piece of paper shaped like a scorpion to a kite string, which is then flown over hills, valleys, and cemeteries. All Saints Day in Guatemala is celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy.
A Festive Celebration Rooted in Tradition
From traditional Guatemalan food to watching gigantic kites take to the sky, All Saints Day is a memorable holiday that seamlessly blends Mayan and Christian culture, art, and spirituality. As you witness these kites soar, you'll experience the fusion of ancient traditions with contemporary themes, creating a tapestry of beauty and meaning that's unlike any other cultural celebration.
Guatemala's All Saints Day Kite Festival is a celebration that bridges the past and the present, intertwining Mayan traditions with contemporary messages. It's a vibrant and colorful display of art, culture, and spirituality that's not to be missed. If you find yourself in Guatemala during this time, make sure to join the festivities and witness the incredible detail found in these elaborate kites. It's an experience that will touch your heart and soul, celebrating life in the most extraordinary way possible.
There are so many traditions attached to this spirit-filled celebration. From enjoying traditional Guatemalan food to watching gigantic kites flying in the air, All Saints’ Day is a memorable holiday.
We hope you've enjoyed learning about this vibrant and amazing tradition in Guatemala. Here's a free printable for you to enjoy with your family. The download is free at checkout
Want to celebrate these amazing Kites? You can now stand out in these beautiful handmade earrings inspired by colorful textiles and Maya traditions of Guatemala!
Our collection of handmade BARRILETES (kites) in partnership with Mandarina by Dre, honors the spirit of our Guatemalan Gian Kites traditions and the celebration of life.
♡ We encouraging you to visit our shop Vida Maya for more information and to learn more about Guatemalan's culture, traditions and textiles.