Join in the dancing at Kambá Kua in Fernando de la Mora
This music festival is held in the first week of January to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany and San Baltasar (the black king and one of the three wise men). A dance group performs in red and yellow costumes, with torches and drums.
Get caught up in the madness of the Encarnación Carnival
Watch the a succession of floats and radiant, energetic dancing girls, scantily dressed but harnessed into huge frameworks of brightly coloured feathers. The exuberant crowd, meanwhile, sprays white foam out of canisters. The whole event is hugely exhilarating.
Dance until you drop at Arété Guasú
The condition of attending this Carnival of the Guaraní people is that you must join in the dancing – which can be quite energetic, and may include being rolled in mud. Participants wear long costumes and masks – of tigers, pigs or frightening faces of dead ancestors. The tradition is to dance three days and nights without stopping.
Wander the streets of San Ignacio Guasú on Good Friday
At dusk there is a torchlit procession of a statue of the Virgen Dolorosa (Sorrowful Virgin) accompanied by Guaraní chant. The event attracts tens of thousands of visitors from all over the country. At the end there is customarily the illumination of ‘living pictures’, in which people dress up and pose within a frame in the position of famous works of classical religious art.
Share food and drink with the locals on the Day of the Cross, Asunción
On 3 May, the bell of the Oratorio rings at sunrise, and people adorn a cross with strings of chipa or sweets. In the evening, after Mass, they drink cocido and eat the chipa which has been taken down from the cross.
Mind you don’t get burned at the Fiesta de San Juan
This feast of fire, held on 24 June, is marked by many traditional games and customs. These include kicking around a ball made out of cloth, soaked in kerosene and set alight; the setting alight of a stuffed figure which has been hanged by the neck from a tree; and walking barefoot across the glowing embers of the remains of the bonfire.
Get lost in the crowds at the Expo, Mariano Roque Alonso
Held in the first two weeks of July, the Expo has many special events each day, ranging from lectures to dance performances, fashion shows to motorbike displays. One novelty for foreign visitors is the emphasis on animals. You can observe how the typically Paraguayan Brahma (grey with a hump and floppy ears) is crossed with an Angus to produce the Brangus, which is very hardy, particularly in a hot and humid climate like Paraguay’s.
Celebrate Assumption, Asunción
On 15 August, the statue of the Virgin from the Panteón is honoured in the public mass outside the cathedral. There are always a couple of colourfully attired sentinels keeping guard at the door, in blue breeches, red-and-white jackets, helmets, and lances flying the Paraguayan red, white and blue flag.
Take a dance lesson at the Festival Nacional del Paraná
During this festival, dance teachers from around Paraguay explain their techniques to the public. Try to keep up!
Learn to play the harp at the World Harp Festival
This is attended by Paraguayan harpists living inside and outside of the country, as well as other international harpists who play different kinds of harps. During the day they have workshops, and on three consecutive evenings the Teatro Municipal hosts concerts.
Stock up on local craft at the Expoferia, Yataitý
In this cradle of Paraguay’s traditional ao po’i embroidery, for ten days all the local producers have stalls in the grassy Plaza General Francisco Roa in front of the church, and the full range of products is available in one place, at amazingly reasonable prices.
Walk alongside the pilgrims for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Caacupé
The feast of the Immaculate Conception attracts around a million pilgrims, who descend on Caacupé. Some walk all the way, but many take a bus part of the way. Some come on bicycles from faraway towns; some make their way on their knees; some walk carrying enormous heavy crosses. The pilgrims’ arrival is timed for the early morning mass outside the basilica on 8 December.