Carnival (spelled Carnaval in Spanish) is a widely celebrated Catholic holiday, known for its Caribbean celebrations and wild colors. Comparable to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it generally takes place a week before Ash Wednesday in the Catholic calendar. The holiday exists to celebrate fun before the strictness of Lent.
There are Carnaval celebrations all over the Riviera Maya, and Tulum is no exception. It is an explosion of lights, and colour, with bands playing music, parades with floats, elaborate and often feathered costumes, dancing, singing in the streets, fireworks, and food! Each town around the area holds their celebration at a different time, so there is time to visit each, and often Tulum in the final party.
This is festival unique to Tulum, which takes place in March and has been going for decades. It happens at the Mayan Ceremonial Center in Tulum, where Mayan priests perform ceremonies to give thanks for good harvest. Citizens honor the saints through pilgrimages, prayer, bullfighting, offerings, Mayan music, ceremony, and more. Many from nearby communities visit the decorated Church of Tulum in this unique meld of Maya and Catholic tradition.
Festival of the Speaking Cross
In July is the Festival of the Talking Cross (Cruz Parlante) another interesting combination of Catholic and pagan culture. The origin of this unique religious sect stems from the Caste War in the early 1800’s. This was the start of the oppressed Maya rising up. When rebel leader Jose Maria Barrera discovered a strange object in a nearby cenote, it helped the Maya to join together under one cultural identity. This wooden object that looked somewhat like a Christian cross, and partly like the Maya tree of life symbol, the object literally spoke to its followers.
Subsequently, this “Talking Cross” became the crux of an entirely new religion. It uniquely combines loose Catholic traditions with Maya words and gods, and is now a festival here in Tulum.
Festival of the Sea Turtle
This festival takes place in various places during October along the coast of Quintana Roo. There are lots of cultural and environmental activities, with the aim of helping tourists and locals understand how to better care for these beautiful creatures that share the sea with us. There is plenty of fun, too, with a kite-flying contest, sand-castle competition, and Mayan music and cultural activities! Aimed toward children and adults, this festival has been going annually since 2003 and it completely free. Come visit Tulum during one of these unique festivals, and check out BRM Rentals for a great place to enjoy your holiday!