Fiestas Patrias (Chile)

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View of a fonda or ramada, one of the temporary buildings that house the celebrations.
Huaso folklorist sings the Cueca (the Chilean national dance) during the Fiestas Patrias
The Fiestas Patrias of Chile consists of two days:
  • September 18, in commemoration of the proclamation of the First Governing Body of 1810, and marking the beginning of the Chilean independence process.
  • September 19, known as the "Day of the Glories of the Army".
Within Chile the Fiestas Patrias are often referred to as the Dieciocho, or "18th" because the celebration occurs on September 18. Unofficially, the celebration can last for around a week, depending on when it falls (for example, if the 18th is a Wednesday, celebrations extend from Saturday the 14th, through Sunday the 22nd). Most schools and jobs declare a week-long vacation for the holiday.


The celebration of Fiestas Patrias is an expression of Chilean culture. Traditional activities associated with the Dieciocho include Chilean rodeo, dancing the cueca, going to fondas, and barbecue.[1] Officially, activities on September eighteen are centered around a religious celebration "Te Deum Ecuménico de Fiestas Patrias".[2]This ceremony, which is organized by the Catholic Church and led by the Archbishop of Santiago, has taken place since 1811 when it was started by José Miguel Carrera.[2] In 1971, President Salvador Allende asked that the celebration become more ecumenical, encompassing the diverse religious beliefs throughout the country. The ceremony itself begins at 11:00am in the Plaza de Armas.[2] On September 19, a military parade takes place at Parque O'Higgins, overseen by the President of Chile.[1] Many Chileans travel during the Fiestas Patrias to visit family in other parts of the country. In Santiago, many people travel to resorts on the Pacific coast, especially Viña del Mar and the Litoral Central region. It is estimated that 2 million Chileans—nearly one-eighth of the country's population—travel during this holiday.
September 19, the anniversary of the installation of the First Government Council and the very first military parade in Chilean history, marks the grand finale: the Great Military Parade of Chile commemorating the glories of the Chilean Army, on Santiago's O'Higgins Park. Attraching millions of people, and simulcast live on radio, television and on the Internet, the parade, led by the Chilean Armed Forces (Chilean ArmyChilean Navy and Chilean Air Force) and the Carabineros de Chile, takes place in the afternoon, and marks the end of the two day holiday.

Food and fondas

Barbecue or Asado Chileno
Consumption of traditional Chilean foods is one of the principal displays of the Fiestas Patrias.[3] Chileans prepare these foods in their homes, or they go to fondas.[3] Fondas are venues, often tents, prepared and decorated for the Fiestas Patrias where traditional Chilean dishes and beverages are served. The largest fondas are found in Parque O'Higgins. Each year the Chilean President kicks off the Fiestas Patrias celebrations at one of these locales. For many years, the selected fonda was La Grandiosa Bertita.[3]The predominant food associated with the Fiestas Patrias are Chilean empanadas, which are a sort of bread pastry. The filling of these empanadas consist of pino, a mixture of chopped beef and onion, as well as half of a hard-boiled egg, raisins, and an olive. Many Chileans also throw a barbecue for the Fiestas Patrias. During this time sales of meat products exceed $50 million.
During the Fiestas Patrias the preferred drink is chicha, a lightly alcoholic beverage typically made from grapes, although apple chicha is popular in southern Chile. Red wine enjoys popularity during the holiday, while pisco, the so-called "national liquor", becomes secondary.[3]
Alfajores are a typical dessert. Alfajores consist of two lightly breaded cookies joined with manjar, a sweet filling made from caramelized condensed milk.

Use of the flag

People dancing cueca in the Palace of La Moneda
In Chile, it is mandatory to hang the Chilean flag from every public building in the country for the Fiestas Patrias. The flag should be in perfect condition, hung from a white pole or from the front of every building, horizontally or vertically. If hung vertically, the star should always be in the upper left corner, visible from the front of the building. Since 1967, this has been a mandatory practice, punishable with fines in local currency of up to 40,000 pesos (about US$ 80),[4] although the law is not strictly enforced.