Christmas in Guatemala: Burning of the Devil (Quema del Diablo)

There’s an interesting tradition that takes place in Guatemala every December 7th. It is called the “Quema del Diablo” (Burning of the Devil), where a paper figure of the Devil is burned to the roar of the crowd. This happens all across the country, at 6 p.m.

Since we missed it last year, our family took a trip to Barrio La Concepcion, the neighborhood on the east side of Antigua – 4ta Calle Oriente, where the burning takes place every year (sometimes a little too close to the gas station nearby).

As we approached the site, we noticed the place buzzing with activity. Turns out there’s a cottage industry of devil-burning related merchandise, as people buy their own little pinata-sized devils to burn in front of their homes. Light-up horns are the “must-have” item for party-goers.

Quema del Diablo Guatemala

Horns everywhere!

There were street vendors everywhere.

Quema del Diablo Guatemala

Food stalls

Quema del Diablo Guatemala

Chocolate-strawberry “kebabs”

A platform had been setup for the ensuing concert after the devil burning had been completed.

Quema del Diablo Guatemala

Free concert

According to tradition, the practice began in colonial times. The Virgin of Immaculate Conception is honored on December 8th, and to prepare, vigils were held the previous night. To light the streets – remember, no electricity – residents lit torches. Those who couldn’t find torches to set ablaze burned whatever garbage they could gather and burn it in front of the house.

The ruins of Concepcion Church are nearby – hence the name of the neighborhood – and the image of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception was on display for all to see.

Quema del Diablo Guatemala

Virgen de la Concepción

It’s an interesting tradition worth checking out if you happen to be in Guatemala during that time.

Here’s a video I took of the Quema del Diablo in Antigua:

*****

Ever been to Antigua on December 7th?

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3 comments

  1. Last year I had the opportunity to spend most of December in La Antigua, and La Quema was one of the highlights – sitting on the raised sidewalk, I could feel the firecrackers against my legs, had ashes in my hair, and my lungs were full of smoke – what a great time!! It was just one of the exciting Christmas activities in La Antigua.

    • Wow, Kee, you must have gotten pretty close!!! We arrived about 5 minutes before we started and that’s as close as I could get to shoot video.

      As for fireworks and burning things, that’s just the start. It’s going to get crazy towards the end of the years. It’s midday on Christmas Eve and I can hear the fireworks going off right now.

      -Rich

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