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What you need to know about Chile Independence Day

Visit Chile in September, and you’ll undoubtedly hear talk of Chile Independence Day. If you’re lucky enough to be there on and around the 18th of September, you’ll get to join in the celebration. The 18th marks Chile Independence Day and is known locally as the Dieciocho. Whether you’re planning a trip or are just curious, here’s what you need to know about Chile’s Independence Day.

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Chile Independence Day: A quick guide

September 18th is a crucial date on the Chilean calendar. It’s their national holiday and is right up there with Christmas in terms of its importance to the Chilean people. But why? In a nutshell, it’s because Chile declared its independence from Spanish rule on September 18th, 1810. The country had been under Spanish rule since the 16th century, so naturally, this was a huge deal. Chile’s criollo leaders chose this as the day to declare a limited sort of self-government.

While independence was declared on that date, it wasn’t until February 12, 1818, that full independence was achieved. The intervening years constituted a hard and bloody struggle, inspired in part by the revolt and uprising of other South American colonies in the preceding years and decades.

Nonetheless, it’s the September date that is recognised and celebrated as Chile Independence Day. The day is the high point of what is known as the Fiestas Patrias. Did we mention it’s a big deal?

What happens on Chile Independence Day?

In short: It’s party time! Many Chileans spend the entire week leading up to the day celebrating. What’s more, the festivities run until the day after the official Chile Independence Day. September 19th is another public holiday known as the Day of the Glories of the Chilean Army.

All in all, you’re looking at up to seven days of solid celebrating and partying. During this time, many schools and businesses close and people take a vacation from work. Chileans love to mark the occasion with food and drink, music and dancing and parades and rodeos featuring huasos, Chilean cowboys. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, you need to get over there and find a suitably busy ramada. Ramadas, for the uninitiated, are open-air party spaces under thatched or straw roofs. Music, food and a good time are virtually guaranteed. The Dieciocho is a party that you won’t forget anytime soon.

Food and drink on Chile Independence Day

No feast is complete without an ample selection of tasty things to eat and drink. Chilean independence was a monumental event, and the food and beverage on offer reflect that.

Traditional Chilean food is cooked on open bit barbeques known as asados. All that smoky goodness fills the air before barbequed meat and vegetables are served up. Baked empanadas are also particularly popular. When it comes to drinking, there is no shortage of Chilean wine to be had. Many people will get together to cook or share food, though it is possible to buy traditional food and drink from concession stands known as fondas.

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