While there may be a handful of worthwhile festivals held in Paraguay on an annual basis, none have more of a history or religious significance than Dia de San Blas. The San Blas festivity in Paraguay is rooted in Christian origins from a faraway land; Armenia.
Even if you know nothing about the patron saint himself, if you find yourself in Paraguay during the first few days of February, you are sure to be enveloped in lively festivities including parades, music and food.
The History of Saint Blaise
Depending on who you talk to about this martyred saint, you will hear his name pronounced as Saint Blaise in English and San Blas in Spanish. Since this is an English speaking blog we will refer to him by his English name.
Saint Blaise was a Bishop in the Armenian Roman Catholic Church but he was also a physician. It is purported that his main area of medical expertise was afflictions of the throat. People would come to him from all over Armenia and neighboring countries so that he could treat their physical as well as their spiritual ailments.
As his fame spread, many miracles were also credited to him. Saint Blaise continued to serve his people but in the year 316, he was jailed and executed by order of an Armenian governor who was acting at the behest of the emperor Licinius. Apparently Licinius, much like other Roman emperors of the time were keen on killing Christians.
While you can kill a man you cannot kill the impressions and influences he made in his life and that is why a day is set aside every year to honor this Saint in countries all over the world from Eastern Europe to South America. Not surprisingly one of the grandest and most decadent Saint Blaise celebrations are held every year on February 3rd in Paraguay.
The Paraguayan San Blas Festival
The history of San Blas day is as much a part of the celebration as the festivities themselves. After all, this is a religious holiday and many devout Catholics consider this day one of the holiest of the year.
If you do plan to be in Paraguay in early February head to Ciudad del Este where the biggest and brashest San Blas festival is held.
Since Saint Blaise was a physician specializing in ailments of the throat, the San Blas festivity in Paraguay begins with the blessing of the throat by ranking clergymen. Once your throat has been blessed, you can begin filling it with delicious Paraguayan cuisine. Food is a huge part of the San Blas festivity in Paraguay so be sure to leave plenty of room in your stomach for delectable dishes.
In Ciudad del Este lies the Cathedral of Saint Blaise and it is form this cathedral that much of the festivities emanate. There are parades held in his honor that are made to depict some of his more notable acts as a Bishop and leader in the Christian community in Armenia.
While the actual Dia de San Blas falls on February 3rd, the San Blas festivity in Paraguay is a week-long festival. In addition to magnificent parades, specialty foods and religious rites, you will hear much traditional Paraguayan music and songs that commemorate this beloved patron saint of the country.
The San Blas festivity in Paraguay should surely be on your list of Hispanic festivals to experience and to find out more about the exciting festivals that Latin America has to offer check out my article on Hispanic holidays.