Burning of the Devil in Antigua Guatemala

Burning of the Devil in Antigua Guatemala

People gather around Barrio La Conception, Antigua Guatemala, on December 7 at 6pm for La Quema del Diablo, the burning the devil and bad spirits in a cleansing ceremony through the purifying power of fire. La Antigua Guatemala is one of the few places where you can get together with hundreds of people to burn the devil. The origins of the Quema del Diablo in Guatemala can be traced to colonial times. As I have explained in previous years, the idea for the La quema del diablo celebration is to get rid of the devil, the bad spirits, the bad vibes and anything negative that may interfere with the celebrations of Nacimientos (Nativity Scenes), Posadas (Quest for Shelter [Español/English verses]) and Christmas celebration which begin officially with the Feast for the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th.

La quema del diablo (Burning of the Devil) used to be this tradition, little known outside of Guatemala. I say “used to be” since the Burning of the Devil is now all over the Internet.

While glancing through all the different articles about the Burning of the Devil, I noticed that sometimes they have even quoted me directly in some of the articles or simply paraphrase some of the information I have published in the past. It’s good to know that AntiguaDailyPhoto is still a valuable source of information about Guatemala, its people, traditions and celebrations.

Here are some of the articles about the Burning of the Devil tradition:

The devil’s “will” is read: He leaves his greed to a wealthy local merchant and his manipulative skills to a prominent local politician, drawing hoots and guffaws from the crowd. Officials are rarely named, says Rudy Girón, an Antigua resident and editor of AntiguaDailyPhoto.com, but everyone knows whom the devil is talking about. “It’s humor-double-meaning speech making sure people know who’s being criticized without actually calling any names,” he says…

(Continue reading Run, Devil, Run by Michael Shapiro at American Way Magazine)

The tradition of burning the devil began in colonial times. In anticipation of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, those who could afford it adorned the fronts of their houses with lanterns. Eventually, the poor who could not afford such lanterns began gathering their garbage and would burn all of the year’s rubbish in front of their houses. Over time it was formalized and in addition to individual piles of garbage, communities started to burn The Devil to clear the way for Mary’s feast…

(Continue reading A Year’s Worth Of Sins Went Up In Smoke by Luke Maguire Armstrong at The Expeditioner)

Guatemala has just celebrated a beloved tradition: la quema del diablo, the burning of the devil. Across the country, people lit bonfires and burned images of Satan as a way to symbolically cleanse their houses. The government thinks this custom has gone too far. NPR’s John Burnett sent this postcard from Guatemala City…

(Continue reading Guatemalan Official: Burning Devil Dirties The Air by John Burnett at NPR)

One tradition that certainly puts our spring cleaning to shame is Quema del Diablo, or the Burning of the Devil, which takes place every December in Guatemala. Guatemalans have long believed that the Devil lurks in the dark and dusty corners of the house and in garbage, so every year before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8), people sweep him out of their houses and chase him off by burning their household refuse in bonfires topped by effigies of the Devil.

Marimba bands and fireworks add to the festivities. Some of the biggest celebrations are in Antigua and Guatemala City.

In Ciudad Vieja, a Devil three stories high is set alight in the city square at the stroke of six. Quema del Diablo is just one of the 192 unusual happenings described in the Lonely Planet guide, “A Year of Festivals.”

(source: World’s Strangest Holiday Traditions at AOL)


© 2014 – 2016, Rudy Girón. All rights reserved.

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  • Steven

    I searched “the day of the devil, Guatemala” on web via Bing and found your site. I didn’t know the festival was limited to Guatemala. One question, is it always December 7 or is it keyed to some lunar cycle?

    • Yes Steven, it is always observed on December 7.