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Chile’s Mapuche community celebrates the winter solstice New Year

Wednesday, June 23rd 2010 - 03:17 UTC
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For the Mapuches it means the beginning of a new sowing season For the Mapuches it means the beginning of a new sowing season

The Mapuche community, Chile’s largest indigenous group, officially celebrated its new year on Monday June 21.

Since June 21 is the first official day of winter, it is also the winter solstice, the longest night of the year and the point where the earth is farthest away from the sun.

For the Mapuche, this signifies the end of a harvest season and the beginning of a new sowing season.

In Santiago, the University of Central Chile held a formal event to celebrate the New Year that included a variety of Mapuche community leaders and a program filled with traditional songs and dances.

The celebration often begins at night with a family reunion and continues until dawn, when men, women and children submerge themselves into a river as a way to cleanse themselves of the past, and start anew.

After the bath, a series of prayers and individual and group prayers commence, followed by the greeting of the We Txipantu, which means “sunrise of the new sun” and officially welcomes the New Year.

Astronomy has always been very important to the Mapuche.

For years, they have used the movements of the sun, and the interpretation of stars and constellations to predict when the New Year begins and ends. Therefore, the Mapuche calendar consists of 364 days, with 13 months instead of 12.

By Alanna Nuñez – Santiago Times

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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