We Xipantu

Mapuche New Year

The most important celebration for the native peoples in the Southern hemisphere is the We Xipantu or Nquillatún, a Mapuche expression which stands for New Year or sunrise of the new sun. The date is based on the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere and is marking the beginning of winter. It occurs simultaneously with the Inty Raimy (of the Inca tradition), which claims that the sun is the source of wisdom and renovation. During the ceremony, prayers are said and thanks are given to this element essential to life.

The ceremony begins on the night of June 23, when all the families gather around a big bonfire and listen to the ‘Kimkeches” (eldest members) of the group retell “epew” (Mapuche stories). They taste typical dishes specially prepared for the event. These dishes might include chicken, lamb, muday(fermented corn drink) and sopaipillas among others.

At the break of dawn on June 24, everybody (children, youths and elders alike) get to the closest river, stream or spring creek and have a bath in a purification rite. They do this in order to cleanse their body and soul before welcoming the new sun and, therefore, the New Year.

After the bath, a series of individual and group prayers follow as the formal beginning of the celebration. As the families return to their homes, they play typical instruments and dance to their music to celebrate the New Year.

El We Tripantu! or We Xipantu!, or Wiñoy Xipantu!  can then be yelled out loud “The New Year has arrived!”

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