Tomorrow is the Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen, and it is always a surprise to find that another holiday is upon us. It seems that just when I am getting settled back into a routine, we’re off for another long weekend. In Chile, there are 14 (plus one during election years) official holidays.
Jan 1: New Year’s Day
Mar/Apr: Easter and Holy Week
May 1: Day of the Worker (Labor Day)
May 21: Navy Day
June 29: St. Peter and St. Paul Day
July 16: Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen
August 15: Assumption of Mary
September 18: Independence Day
September 19: Armed Forces Day
October 12: Columbus Day
October 31: Restoration Day (honoring Martin Luther)
November 1: All Saints Day
December 8: Immaculate Conception
Mid-December: Election Day (during Presidential election years)
December 25: Christmas Day (celebrations really take place Christmas Eve)
Unofficially, February is the month for vacations, and frequently cities will seem like they’re in the Twilight Zone during those weeks. Many shops will be closed, and sidewalks that are normally packed with pedestrians will be vacant. Even Santiago can give the impression of being a ghost town. Most every Chilean is either at the beach, in the mountains, or traveling abroad.
In the U.S., there are only 10 official holidays. Unless you are a government employee, it’s hit-or-miss as to whether it’s a holiday for you. Most U.S. businesses regard holidays as an inconvenience to revenue, and employees are often offered the minimum in days off. In Chile, however, all holidays are sacred, some literally, and you will be hard-pressed to find any business open.
During our early months in Chile, we were always being caught off-guard, and were forced to eat whatever we could scrounge up in the fridge or cupboard. At the time, we were living in a teeny-tiny apartment, and had no space to keep a pantry. Groceries are not 24-7 in Concepcion, and it is always a necessity to plan ahead.
Travelers should take note of the holidays for, while hotels remain open for business, most restaurants do not. In Concepcion, all close with the exception of the Chinese restaurants. They always seem to be open for business.
For ourselves, given being forewarned of tomorrow’s significance, our journey home will include the grocery store, wine store and Blockbuster.