FOLKLORE AND TRADITIONS
folk music and dances have been greatly influenced by the costumes, traditions
and religious beliefs of the three races which constitute Venezuela’s
population as a whole: White, Indian and Black.
Popular dances are to great extent the product of Creole (criollo) culture. Nevertheless, typical Indian dances and other signs of almost pure African origins may still be found in some areas. The origin of Venezuela’s musical instruments can be traced back to the indigenous, Europeans and African cultures. All three have greatly influenced popular music.
Before the arrival of
the Spaniards, the Indians used carved bones flutes, clay whistles, seashell
trumpets and maracas. During the Spanish colonization and the arrival of the
African slaves, several instruments were incorporated into the popular music
tradition such as cuatro (a four string small guitar), violin, guitar and drums.
Joropo: As the national
dance of Venezuela it is performed throughout the country. Lively, merry and
syncopated, it is Spanish in origin and Venezuelan in feeling. It is a dance for
couples and has as many as thirty-six variants of the basic steps. The musical
accompaniment is provided by the cuatro, maracas and counter pointed by a harp.
Devils of Yare: The red dancing
devils of Yare begin their traditional battle against the forces of
righteousness on Corpus Christi day, and it is one of the most unique and
colorful ceremonies of the Christian World. The outcome of the battle is also
traditional, virtue will triumph but not until after a full day of strenuous
opposition on the part of Satan’s henchmen.
In Venezuela, Christmas is celebrated
with a number of religious and traditional customs.
As a predominantly Catholic country, Christmas festivities celebrate the
birth of the child Jesus. The
religious celebrations begin on the 16th of December with masses said
every morning until December 24th, when the religious service is held
at midnight (Misa de Gallo).
main celebration takes place on Christmas Eve, Noche Buena, as it is called in
Spanish. Families get together to
enjoy the traditional holiday meal: hallacas,
pan de jamón, dulce de lechoza. The
pan de jamón is a long bread filled with cooked ham and raisins. The dulce de lechoza is a dessert made of green papaya and
brown sugar, slowly cooked for hours and served cold.
homes put up a Christmas tree but the most authentic Venezuelan custom is to
display a nacimiento (Nativity scene). A
more sophisticated nacimiento is the pesebre.
This represents an entire region with mountains, hills, plains and
valleys. The central point is a replica of the manger at Bethlehem.
The structure is a framework covered with canvas and painted accordingly.
Often, the pesebre becomes a real work of art.
December 25 children awake to find their gifts around the Nacimiento or the
Christmas tree. Tradition has it
that it is the Child Jesus who brings gifts to the Venezuelan children instead
of Santa Claus, as is it the belief in the United States,
plays an important role in the celebrations.
The traditional songs of this period are called aguinaldos.
In the old days the aguinalderos (singers of aguinaldos) would go from
home to home singing their songs and playing traditional instruments such as the
cuatro (a small, four strings guitar), the maracas (rattle) and the furruco (a
small, elongated drum with a wooden stick in the middle. The movement of the stick slightly indented on the drums
leather is what produces the sound).
Christmas festivities come to an official closing on January 6, the Day of the
Reyes Magos (the three wise kings who came to visit Mary and the infant Jesus),
when children again receive toys and candies.
Christmas is, above all, the main holiday during which Venezuelan
families get together and rejoice.