Customs

Fistfights, Grudge Matches, and Other Christmas Traditions


Christmas Peru fistfight grudge match

December 25 generally puts people in the Christmas spirit (unless you live in Russia or Ukraine). It is a day of praying for and enjoying peace on earth and good will toward everyone. All around the world people put aside their differences. Wars have even been known to come to a stop for that special day. If that is your experience with December 25, then it is clear you aren’t from the Chumbivilcas community. That’s the place where nothing says Christmas better than a black eye, split lip, and scars from a good old-fashioned grudge match.

The reason for the fighting is the old custom of Takanakuy. The word means “when the blood is boiling” in the Quechua dialect. For the people of this community near Cuzco, Peru, it is a day for settling differences and getting ready to enter the new year with a clean slate.

The annual festival is open to anyone who wants to settle a score. Each year sees disputes duked out between family members, friends, neighbors, and political opponents. As spectators gather and celebrate with music, dancing, costumes, and drinking, anyone with a grudge can call out the name of an adversary. That person is then honor-bound to reply. That’s when things get really interesting.

The style of fighting involves a lot of punching, kicking, and body slamming. Rules prohibit biting, pulling hair, or continuing an assault after the other person has fallen to the ground. Men must wrap their fists in cloth before the fight. Referees and law enforcement stand by, just in case things get too out of hand. The winner is determined by knockout or by the referee jumping in to put an end to the carnage. Each fight begins and ends with handshakes or hugs.

So next time you are sitting at a Christmas dinner, fighting a losing struggle to remain civil with an estranged relative, consider giving the gift that might make all future Christmases a lot more peaceful: two tickets to Peru for December 25 of next year.

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