The most popular holiday this month is Christmas with the exchanging of gifts, seeing relatives, and Santa, but I think we’re celebrating the wrong holiday.
In Peru, the inhabitants of the Chumbivilcas Province gather to celebrate Takanakuy on December 25th. This celebration involves dancing, alcohol, and fist fighting.
The fighting is usually between two people who need to settle an old conflict or to prove how much of a man they are, and it’s the most genius idea for a holiday ever.
That girl who stole your eraser in 4th grade? Challenge her to a brawl.
That annoying co-worker who always steals your food when your name is clearly written on it? Throw the gauntlet down.
Your roommate who refuses to do the dishes? Bloody his nose.
In Takanakuy, there are 5 different “characters” that you can pick from to dress up as, each one having a different meaning. Most of them involve ski masks to hide the identity of the fighters so they don’t continue with the conflict, which makes sense because if you lose the fight, you’re going to want payback. The celebration actually starts off very serene, with a falsetto of voices from the streets walking together towards the center of town. People then proceed to call out the entire name of who they want to challenge, which leads to them in the center of a circle formed by the masses. There are some rules to this madness in that there is no kicking a man while he’s down, no biting, and no pulling hair. The fight either ends in a knockout or intervention from the designated judge, followed by a handshake or even an embrace. The defeated can also call for a rematch if he does not agree with the results, which goes into proving how masculine they are. Of course, before all of this happens, there are days of drinking beforehand because no one would agree to this sober, along with dancing to loosen the nerves. At the end of the day, people are bloody and bruised, but high on the exhilaration of the fight and at peace with their old enemies, which really is how a holiday should feel.
Takanakuy is strikingly different from Christmas, but it has a catharsis to it that makes it a continual celebration throughout the years. Although Christmas is supposed to celebrate good will towards men and all that, it can actually be a very stressful holiday with finding gifts, dealing with problematic family members, and decorating your entire house. If anything, Takanakuy is actually a reaction to everything going on with Christmas. You’re supposed to be good all year and with Christmas you get a materialistic reward, but with Takanakuy you get to release all of the grudges you’ve been holding in all year, which seems like the better option. Gifts can break or never be used, but the fact that you beat the living crap out of someone you hated carries a bigger meaning.
So, this Christmas, when your mom asks you why you decked your cousin over the last serving of macaroni, tell her that you did it in the spirit of Takanakuy, because life's too short to have any grievances that can easily be settled in hand to hand combat.