When doing business in Latin America, it is important to keep holiday dates in mind. While there are a number of holidays similar to those in the United States, celebrations can be more profound, focus on religion and embrace family, culture and history. Many times, businesses close their doors so employees may partake in the events. Here are just a few to note.
Dia de Los Reyes Magos
Catholicism is practiced in many Latin American countries. This day, known as Three Kings Day or Epiphany, is, in some ways, even more important than Christmas. Many businesses close. People attend church services and exchange gifts. In fact, children typically receive more gifts from the Three Kings than from Santa Claus. Other traditions include special foods and family celebrations.
Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candeleria
Celebrated in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela and Uruguay, villages that are typically quiet fill with large crowds. People wear colorful costumes, play music, participate in parades and celebrate this religious figure that is revered for a series of miracles. Typically people gather for days to pray and celebrate.
40 Days before Easter
The dates change annually depending on the Catholic calendar. Celebrated in many Latin American countries, the celebration is arguably the largest in Brazil and, more specifically, Rio de Janeiro. Doing business in Brazil between Christmas and Carnival can be difficult. While not everyone takes a four-week vacation, many offices allow employees time off for celebration preparations. The week before Easter, thousands of people take to the streets in costumes and celebrate exuberantly with spectacular floats, parades, music and dancing.
Dia del Trabajador (Day of the Worker)
Do not expect banks or government offices to be open in Latin American countries on this day. Known as May Day in European countries, this secular holiday is similar to Labor Day in the United States. However, Dia del Trabajador is a more actively celebrated day of parades and demonstrations to show solidarity with the worker.
Semana Santa (Holy Week)
This is the most important Catholic holiday of the year. Many residents of Latin America celebrate the end of Lent and commemorate the last days of Christ’s life, the crucifixion and resurrection. Celebrations range from solemn services to very festive meals and gatherings. Most businesses are closed Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Depending on the country, government offices may be closed the entire week. On Good Friday, people take to the streets in many towns and villages to enact the Passion of Jesus. Sometimes hundreds of people take part and play roles that follow the Biblical story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. It can be an all-day event.
Cinco de Mayo
Many Americans may be startled to learn that Cinco de Mayo is not a national holiday in Mexico. The anniversary of an 1862 battle in that country has become more of a day of celebration in the United States. There may be a military parade in Mexico City, but it is not typically a day of celebration in other Latin American countries because it’s not a day of independence. Half of Latin American Independence Days are in September and commemorate those who fought for freedom from Spanish rule during the 18th and 19th centuries. For example, banks, government offices and businesses are typically closed on September 15 in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras.