Hi friends! I’m finally back with another “Little Look at my Expat Life” today talking about Chile’s recent holiday- Fiestas Patrias!
September 18th + 19th, better known in Chile as ‘Dieciocho’ is by far the biggest holiday of the year. These Fiestas Patrias, translated literally as “Native land parties” are a time to celebrate all things Chile; down here Dieciocho beats out major holidays like Christmas and New Years by a landslide!
The build-up to September is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and I’m pretty sure the entire month is every Chileans favorite time of the year.
Eating, drinking and eating some more pretty much takes over September- & the weight gain is so real. For most Chileans, summer diets and workout plans usually begin 9:00 AM on the 20th..
So to further explain every Chileans (& my new) favorite holiday, I’ve put together a list of the 18 ingredients needed to celebrate the perfect Chilean September 18th!
Sorry ahead of time if my videos and photos aren’t the best quality- like I said, there was a lot of drinking involved…
Dieciocho- Typical Chilean Foods
The most activity that takes place during Chile’s Fiestas Patrias (and one of my all-time favorites) is EATING. During September, no one holds back. You eat and eat, and then when you’re so full you’re about to pop, you take a quick break, recover and then eat some more!
Here’s what you’ll find on the menu:
1. Empanadas- both baked and fried
While empanadas are pretty popular in Chile year round, they’re especially prominent during September. Baked, fried, cheese, meat, veggie, fish- they’re everywhere and you’ll find any combination your heart could possibly desire during dieciocho.
The most popular traditional Chilean empanada served during September is the “Empanada de pino” filled with ground meat, sauteed onion, black olive and hardboiled egg.
Chilean Anticuchos are large meat skewers prepared for the grill containing chunks of meat and veggies.
Choripan is another Chilean favorite year-round, but you definitely see an increase in Choripan intake during Fiestas Patrias. This little sandwich get’s its name from its two main ingredients- “chori” or chorizo and “pan” or bread. It’s usually topped with Pebre (my next ingredient) and served on Chilean marraqueta, or crusty rolls similar to French bread.
Pebre is a Chilean salsa and traditional condiment made with tomato, onion, olive oil cilantro and spicy Ají peppers. It’s served with meat, on bread and as a topping to well, pretty much everything.
5. Pastel de Choclo
Pastel de Choclo is one of my favorite traditional Chilean dishes and the perfect combination of sweet and savory! The best I can explain it is a type of Chilean sweet corn casserole usually containing some mix of beef, chicken, onions, raisins, olives, spices and hardboiled egg. The ingredients are layered, mixed with milk and cream and all baked together in a round Pomaire clay pot.
6. Asados galore
Asados or Chilean BBQs take place all year (yes, even in the dead of winter), but are especially popular during September. Once the warm spring Chilean sun starts to shine, everyone migrates outdoors welcoming Spring and eagerly celebrating their favorite holiday. Asados are usually extremely heavy on the red meat and instead of handing out individual servings (as we do in the US), the meat is usually cut up into bite-sized pieces and passed around on a board to eat as finger food.
Dieciocho- Traditional Chilean Drinks
On to another integral part of Dieciocho- bebidas! Fiestas Patrias and the entire month of September is basically just one big excuse to drink in Chile. And I thought us Americans were bad …
This calendar was circling around for quite some time during the beginning of September.
For those who are wondering, “SED” means thirsty…
Pisco is probably every Chilean’s (at least all the Chileans I know) liquor of choice. It’s a Chilean/Peruvian amber-colored brandy made by distilling fermented grape juice into a high-proof spirit. It’s always around (not only in September), but boy are the Pisco shelves left looking scarce during Fiestas Patrias.
No, I’m not talking about those terrifyingly violent Earth-shakes that we often experience down here in Chile (although this drink can leave you feeling pretty shaky). Terremotos, translated in English to Earthquakes, would have to be the most TYPICAL of all Dieciocho mixed drinks. They consist of pipeño (a sweet fermented wine), pineapple-flavored ice cream and grenadine- yeah I know, a real sugar bomb. They’re usually served in a half liter glass and after only one you’re sure to be feeling a little loopy.
On the topic of Chilean sugar-bombs, let’s move onto another Dieciocho classic- Borgoña, or red wine with strawberries and sugar. It’s a sweet punch-like beverage typically served alongside red meat at Chilean asados.
Chicha is a sweet alcoholic fermented grape juice (and sometimes apple juice) sure to be found on every family table during Fiestas Patrias.
Dieciocho- Traditional Chilean Sweets
11. Mote con Huesillo
Another typical Chilean drink usually served as a dessert beverage is “Mote con Huesillo. I have to admit that this concoction is not one of my favorites, but Chileans swoon over it. It’s non-alcoholic drink made with caramelized peach juice, whole boiled peach & wheat.
If you know anything about South American sweets, you’ve already heard of “alfajores,” delicate little sandwiched cookies with a cream filling, usually chocolate or dulce de leche. You’ll find different variations of a these tasty treats from country to country, but the classic Chilean version two light flakey cookies with “manjar,” the Chilean version of dulce de leche, in between.
Dieciocho- Traditional Chilean Costumes
13. Dieciocho Dress
All around Dieciocho you’ll quickly see retail stores fill with little flowered “huasita dresses” for the girls + black suits with “chupalla” hats for the boys.
Dieciocho- Chilean Traditions
14. Chilean Flag Decorations
Red, white and blue. Everywhere.
The Chilean flag will forever and always be stamped in my memory- in the form of flags, streamers, napkins, plates, table cloths and the chilean favorite, “guirnaldas” or garlands.
These people sure are patriotic…
Cueca is Chile’s national dance involving lots of stomping, clapping, circling and figure eights, a couple, 2 handkerchiefs and the costumes discussed above. Every single Chilean knows how to dance Cueca to some extent, so don’t believe them even if they say they don’t. I happy to know this firsthand as I worked in a school last year and was told that all schools spend at least a month prior to September in physical education grooming students in the art of cueca. Most schools spend longer …
No, unfortunately, I’m not talking about the deliciously mouthwatering Mexican street snacks..
I’m talking about the Chilean version of taco AKA traffic. Yeah, I know … way less fun ..
Santiago is notorious for weekend traffic leaving the city and this taco is especially HORRENDOUS during Fiestas Patrias. We left at 4:30AM Saturday morning just to avoid it … and still hit quite a lot …
Chileans love “juegos tipicos,” and there are usually a ton found at fondas (below). I have to say though, their games are very peculiar, many involving trying to keep your grip inspite of some kind of grease. For example there’s “el palo encebado,” involving a large oiled pole that must be climbed. Whoever can make it to the top wins. Oh, there’s also “agarrar el chancho,” which involves greasing a pig and then chasing it and trying to grab-a-hold.. I told you … peculiar… There’s a ton more. Go see for yourself.
Mix all of the above ingredients together into one big carnival-like event and you’ve got yourself a Chilean Fonda. Fondas are huge, outdoor parties where you’ll find stands offering traditional Chilean foods and drinks, areas with games and live music, dance floors and more! They take place all over the country, all month, but the biggest and most fun take place on the two bank holidays September 18th and 19th. Literally nothing else will be open- so you might as well go and join in on the fun!
If you want a closer look inside Chile’s Fiestas Patrias, and the 18 ingredients that make it perfect, check out my Instagram story today!
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Have you ever heard of Fiestas Patrias in Chile? What ingredient would you like to try the most?
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