Last Wednesday was the 18th of September, in the United States it was just a regular day, but here in Chile the whole country was celebrating their patriatism.
What is El Dieciocho?
While I have been here a lot of Chileans have explained the holiday as their "Fourth of July," however, the way that these two holidays are celebrated is very different. For one, "Las Fiestas Patrias" also known as "El Dieciocho,"("The 18th"), is a much bigger deal. People celebrate all week, most schools have the week off and not working Wednesday through Friday seems to be standard. Also, the festities stretch to a level almost much higher than that of the Fourth of July in the US. There are mini flags hung up across the mall and all of the comercials seem to be Dieciocho themed. In our gym classes we have been in the dance unit, learning a traditional dance to perform as a way to celebrate. Here, unlike the US, there aren't normally flags everywhere, but during the week and month of Las Fiestas Patrias you can spot the Chilean flag with ease, I can see one on our normally empty flag pole right now.
How did I celebrate?
The 18th itself is a day to spend with family. My family personally took the opportunity to drive out to a family member's new house in the country. Ten of us, spanning four generations piled into two cars and drove for an hour out of the city. Valparaiso is not only beautiful, but the geography in the country around it is also something to be seen. The highway ran in between green mountains and farm land, all very lush and picturesque.
We arrived and unloaded the bags of food and got settled. I sat and listened to conversations while snacking on the bowls of chips that had been set up. My actions similar to what they would have been in a family gathering with my own family, but the language and scenary and people that surrounded me were very different. That being said, this family welcomed me, treating me as one of their own; I felt comfortable with them easily. I met plenty of new people, little cousins and laughing aunts and a cute little white dog, Coca.
The rest of the day passed with the same relaxed feel. We ate lunch and cake, played games, went for a walk and enjoyed the view. The energy was very similar to what I am used to within my own family gatherings. The familiarity was nice.
We drove home to have tea (and avocado toast:wonderful) and were joined by some family from out of town. I went to bed very full and very content.
The rest of the week
The end of my week did not include school, it did include good times with family and friends, a decent amount of relaxation and a few incredible trips to the ramada (a fair they set up for the 18th). The times were good and the memories are sweet. The holiday was different from anything I would be able to experience in the US, I´m grateful to have passed the 18th of September, 2019 here in Chile.