The 18th of September

The main holiday takes place on the 18th, which is no wonder why everyone refers to the celebrations as el Dieciocho (the 18th). Like many countries, this day is not the actual date of Chilean independence, but it commemorates the day the First Assembly of the Government gathered proclaiming autonomy. This date marked the beginning of an eight year process, making February 12, 1818 the official date of Chilean Independence. However, since 1811, Chile has been celebrating their Fiestas Patrias.

How Chileans Celebrate “las Fiestas Patrias”

What could you possibly do for one week to four days of celebrations? Everything that is traditionally Chilean of course! Parades, parties, barbeques, music, dancing, food, drinks, and the list goes on. Here are the highlights:


Most of the food, dancing, and other activities take place in fondas and ramadas throughout the city. They’re easily noticeable with their thatched roofs made from tree branches, reminiscent of the Chilean countryside. Although fondas and ramadas are widely used interchangeably, traditionally fondas mainly serve food and drinks while ramadas also have a dance floor and often have cover charges.


Almost everywhere you go, the scents of asados (barbeques) and empanadas fill the air. The most popular is the mouthwatering Empanada de Pino / Empanada Chilena filled with minced meat, sautéed onions, a hardboiled egg, an olive, and sometimes raisins.

It is typical to grill all types of meat cuts, mainly beef and pork, chorizos for Choripanes, and Anticuchos (a variety of meat on skewers), all with a side of Pebre (chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, olive oil, salt, and sometimes peppers). Chilean asados are an institution that accompanies almost any and every event, but most popular during las Fiestas Patrias and the Summer season. It is said that the average Chilean gains 5-7 kilos just during the Fiestas Patrias.


Wine, national beers, Pisco, and everything in between are choice drinks to accompany the immense amount of food. What steals the show is Chicha, a sweet, distilled grape or apple based beverage that is almost exclusively drunk during the week. Melón con Vino (wine inside of a melon) is also a favorite, as well as the infamous Terremoto (pipeño wine, a bit of fernet, and a scoop of pineapple ice cream), both a sweet idea, but potent choices.

Music and Dancing

From the National Anthem to Cueca to Cumbias and Rancheras, this is when local Chilean music shines above any other genre.

Chile’s national folkloric dance is Cueca, and performances and competitions take place throughout Chile. There are local variations, such as la Cueca Chora, la Cueca Brava, la Cueca Chilota, etc.

Symbolically, the dance alludes to the mating ritual between a rooster and chicken. The man tries to win the heart of his female companion with his stellar moves in a very flirtatious dance where they wave handkerchiefs in the air and stomp their feet.


Rodeos take place in medialunas, a semi-circled arena where huasos (Chilean countrymen) demonstrate their horse riding skills and dancecueca. Huasos are an iconic example of rural Chile and the country’s past which has maintained traditions for centuries. The city of Rancagua is most famous for this spectacle.

Traditional Games

Although not so popular among the youth now, las Fiestas Patrias brings out all of Chile’s traditional games dating back to colonial times and countryside culture for fun and competition. It’s a common practice to either buy or make kites for children, and in some places, the skyline will be dotted with their colorful designs. Carnival-style rides, horse races, la rayuela, tug-of-war, sack and three-legged races, pole climbing, catching a pig, and spinning tops are all typical games for the young and old.

What “las Fiestas Patrias” Mean to Chileans

Over 200 years later, las fiestas patrias commemorates their first move towards independence, but more importantly, it is an expression Chile’s rich culture and identity. Many Chileans spend the 18th with their families and close friends having traditional asados (barbeques) at their homes, and the other celebratory days are spent at ramadas and fondas with friends and family.

Chileans don’t just celebrate the 18th and 19th, it becomes a weeklong event, and many families travel throughout Chile to visit their relatives. Officially, the Chilean holiday can span from five to two weekdays, plus the weekend. Many schools, government offices, and businesses will take the entire week off.


The 19th of September

One day later there is another public holiday. A holiday designated years later and known as the Day of the Glories of the Army, it celebrates the triumphant Chilean military against Spanish forces, led by the Chilean liberator, Bernardo O’Higgins. During this day, an official military and naval parade takes place.



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