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What Is The Most Important Holiday In Panama


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Ronnie Edmunds



Panama, a vibrant and diverse country in Central America, is renowned for its rich cultural heritage and vibrant celebrations. One of the fascinating aspects of Panama is its wide array of holidays and festivities. From religious observances to historical commemorations, these holidays play a significant role in the lives of Panamanians, bringing communities together and showcasing the country’s unique traditions.


Throughout the year, Panamanians eagerly anticipate and joyfully participate in various holiday celebrations, each offering a distinct experience and insight into the country’s culture and history. These festivities are a blend of indigenous, Spanish, and Afro-Caribbean influences, making them truly vibrant and captivating.


This article will explore the most important holidays in Panama, shedding light on their significance, rituals, and cultural traditions. Whether you are planning a visit to Panama or simply interested in learning more about its rich tapestry of celebrations, join us on this journey through Panama’s festive calendar.


History of Holidays in Panama

The history of holidays in Panama is deeply rooted in its diverse cultural heritage and the influences of various civilizations that have shaped the country over the centuries. The original indigenous peoples of Panama, such as the Kuna, Emberá, and Ngöbe-Buglé, had their own traditional celebrations and rituals long before the arrival of Spanish colonizers.


When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century, they brought their own customs and traditions, including religious holidays. The fusion of Spanish Catholicism with indigenous beliefs resulted in a unique blend of celebrations that are still observed in Panama today.


During the colonial era, Panama became an important trading hub and a vital part of the Spanish Empire. As a result, many European holidays and traditions were also introduced and embraced by the Panamanian population.


After gaining independence from Spain in 1821, Panama became part of the Republic of Gran Colombia before later achieving complete independence in 1903. This marked a turning point in the country’s history and led to the emergence of new patriotic holidays, celebrating the nation’s identity and struggle for sovereignty.


In recent years, Panama has also embraced holidays and celebrations from other cultures, reflecting its growing multiculturalism. Events such as Caribbean Carnival, influenced by the African diaspora, have become an integral part of the country’s festive calendar.


Today, Panama commemorates a diverse range of holidays, blending indigenous, Spanish, and Caribbean influences. These celebrations not only honor the country’s history and traditions but also serve as opportunities for cultural exchange and unity among its diverse population.


The Significance of Holidays

Holidays hold immense significance in Panama, serving as a time for both reflection and celebration. They play a vital role in preserving and passing down cultural traditions, fostering a sense of community, and reinforcing national identity and pride.


One of the key aspects of holidays in Panama is the opportunity they provide for families and friends to come together. Many holidays are marked by gatherings, feasts, and jovial celebrations, strengthening familial and social bonds. These festive occasions allow people to reconnect, share stories and laughter, and create lasting memories.


In addition to the social aspect, holidays hold deeper cultural and historical significance. They serve as a reminder of the country’s heritage and the struggles and triumphs that shaped Panama’s identity. Through various rituals, customs, and acts of remembrance, Panamanians pay homage to their ancestors and honor their roots.


Holidays also offer a chance for Panamanians to express their religious devotion. The country is predominantly Roman Catholic, and many holidays have a strong religious undertone. Whether it’s attending religious processions, participating in Mass, or offering prayers and gratitude, these holidays provide an opportunity for spiritual reflection and connection.


Furthermore, holidays in Panama have an economic impact, as they often attract tourists and visitors. Festivals like Carnival bring people from all around the world to experience the vibrant colors, music, and energetic parades. This infusion of visitors boosts the local economy, supporting businesses and promoting tourism.


Overall, holidays in Panama hold multifaceted significance. They are a time for celebration, togetherness, cultural preservation, religious devotion, and economic growth. These occasions serve as a reflection of Panama’s rich history, diverse traditions, and the enduring spirit of its people.


Cultural Celebrations in Panama

Panama is a country known for its vibrant and diverse cultural celebrations, rooted in the traditions of its indigenous peoples, the influence of Spanish colonialism, and the African diaspora. These festivities highlight the unique cultural tapestry that defines Panama and showcase the country’s rich heritage.


One of the most renowned cultural celebrations in Panama is the annual Carnival, which takes place in the week leading up to Ash Wednesday. Carnival is a time of exuberant festivity, colorful parades, music, dancing, and lavish costumes. Each region of the country puts its own spin on the celebration, but the essence remains the same – a jubilant showcase of Panamanian culture and an opportunity for people to unleash their creativity and revel in the joyful atmosphere.


Another significant cultural celebration in Panama is the Independence Day, commemorating the country’s independence from Spain. On November 3rd, Panamanians proudly display their national flag, participate in parades, and enjoy various cultural activities. This is a time to reflect on the country’s history, honor its heroes, and showcase a strong sense of patriotism.


The Ngöbe-Buglé people, one of the major indigenous groups in Panama, have their own cultural celebrations that are deeply rooted in their traditions. One notable celebration is the Ngöbe-Buglé Comarca Day, held on February 1st each year. It is a time for the community to come together, express their cultural heritage through traditional dances, music, and art, and celebrate their unique identity.


Other cultural celebrations in Panama include the Pollera Festival, which celebrates the traditional Panamanian dress, and the Corpus Christi processions, where locals adorn the streets with colorful carpets of flowers and display religious icons.


Throughout the country, various folklore and music festivals take place, showcasing the diverse cultural expressions of Panama. These events provide a platform for local artists, musicians, and dancers to showcase their talents and share their cultural heritage with the community and visitors alike.


These cultural celebrations are not only an opportunity to experience the vibrant traditions of Panama, but also to promote cultural exchange, foster a sense of community, and highlight the country’s rich diversity and artistic expression.


Religious Holidays in Panama

Religion plays a significant role in the lives of many Panamanians, and religious holidays hold special importance and reverence. The country is predominantly Roman Catholic, and the Catholic calendar governs many of the religious celebrations in Panama.


One of the most important religious holidays in Panama is Easter, also known as Holy Week or Semana Santa. This week-long observance commemorates the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Throughout the country, there are solemn processions, religious services, and reenactments of the Stations of the Cross. Many Panamanians participate in religious pilgrimages to holy sites during this time, such as El Valle de Antón and the Basilica del Santo Cristo de la Salud.


Christmas is another significant religious holiday in Panama. The celebration begins with the Novena, a series of prayers and devotions held over nine evenings leading up to Christmas Day. Families gather to pray, sing, and reflect on the meaning of Christmas. Midnight Mass, or Misa de Gallo, is a traditional part of the Christmas Eve celebrations, followed by festive feasts, gift exchanges, and fireworks.


The Day of the Dead, or Día de los Fieles Difuntos, is observed on November 2nd and is a time to honor and remember deceased loved ones. Families visit cemeteries, clean and decorate graves, and offer prayers and floral arrangements. It is believed that on this day, the spirits of the departed return to be with their families, and it is a solemn but uplifting occasion that combines religious and cultural traditions.


Other religious holidays observed in Panama include the Feast of the Epiphany, or Día de los Reyes Magos, celebrating the visit of the Three Wise Men to baby Jesus, and Corpus Christi, a catholic feast celebrating the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. These festivals often involve processions, Masses, and special religious ceremonies.


Religious holidays in Panama provide a time for spiritual reflection, devotion, and the reaffirmation of faith. They bring communities together and offer an opportunity for the faithful to deepen their connection to their religious beliefs and traditions.


Independence Day

Independence Day holds tremendous significance in Panama, as it commemorates the country’s hard-fought struggle for freedom and independence from Spanish colonial rule. On November 28th, Panamanians proudly celebrate their national identity and honor the heroes who fought for their sovereignty.


November 28th, 1821, marked the day when Panama declared its separation from Spain and joined the Republic of Gran Colombia. However, true independence was not fully achieved until November 3rd, 1903, when Panama gained sovereignty from Colombia with the help of the United States.


Independence Day in Panama is a national holiday and an occasion for patriotic fervor and festivity. It is a day when Panamanians display their national pride by donning the colors of the Panamanian flag – red, white, and blue. Parades, military displays, and cultural performances are organized across the country.


In Panama City, the capital, the main Independence Day celebration takes place along the renowned Cinta Costera. Thousands of people line the streets to witness the colorful parades, which include marching bands, traditional folk dancers, and floats representing different aspects of Panamanian culture and history.


Schools, community organizations, and government institutions also participate in the parades, showcasing their pride in the nation and highlighting their contributions to the development and growth of Panama. It is a time when the entire country comes alive with patriotic songs, joyful chants, and a sense of unity.


The official ceremony takes place at the Plaza de la Independencia in Panama City, where government officials and dignitaries gather to deliver speeches, honor the nation’s heroes, and raise the national flag. This ceremony serves as a powerful reminder of Panama’s hard-fought journey to independence and the resilience of its people.


Independence Day also offers an opportunity for reflection on the country’s progress and challenges. It is a time to remember the sacrifices made by those who fought for freedom and to reaffirm the values that define Panama as a nation.


Beyond the parades and festivities, Independence Day in Panama is a day of national pride, unity, and gratitude for the country’s independence. It represents the triumph of the Panamanian spirit and serves as a reminder of the importance of freedom, sovereignty, and the pursuit of a prosperous future for all Panamanians.



Carnival is a vibrant and exhilarating festival considered one of the most anticipated and joyous celebrations in Panama. It typically takes place in the week leading up to Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent. Carnival in Panama is a time of exuberant revelry, contagious energy, and cultural expression.


The origins of Carnival can be traced back to the religious observances of the Catholic Church, which allowed people to engage in excessive feasting and merriment before the solemnity of Lent. However, it has evolved into a grand celebration that showcases the creativity, music, dance, and cultural diversity of Panama.


During Carnival, the streets of Panama come alive with vibrant parades, elaborate costumes, pulsating music, and infectious dancing. The festivities are not limited to one particular location but are celebrated throughout the country, with each region adding its own unique flair.


In Panama City, the capital, the Carnival celebrations are the most elaborate and attract both locals and visitors alike. The streets are lined with food stalls selling traditional dishes, drinks, and snacks. Colorful floats and marching bands fill the air with lively tunes, while revelers dressed in elaborate costumes dance to the rhythm.


The queens of Carnival, known as “Reinas,” are a highlight of the festivities. These are young women who have been chosen to represent different neighborhoods or organizations. They wear lavish costumes, often adorned with feathers, sequins, and gemstones, and compete for the honor of being crowned the Carnival Queen.


One of the most famous Carnival celebrations in Panama is the Carnival of Las Tablas. This small town located in the province of Los Santos is divided into two rivaling neighborhoods: Calle Arriba “Uptown” and Calle Abajo “Downtown.” For four days, these neighborhoods compete in colorful parades, showcasing their creativity and dedication to Carnival tradition.


Another unique aspect of Carnival in Panama is the use of “Culecos,” which are large water trucks equipped with powerful hoses. These trucks spray water to cool down the crowds and create a refreshing atmosphere amidst the tropical heat.


Carnival in Panama is not only a time of celebration and entertainment; it also fosters a strong sense of community and cultural exchange. It brings people from different backgrounds together to revel in the shared joy and appreciation of Panamanian traditions.


Overall, Carnival in Panama is a time of pure excitement, vibrant colors, and non-stop dancing. It is a celebration that unites the nation, allowing Panamanians to embrace their culture, express their creativity, and revel in the joyful spirit of this captivating festival.


Christmas and New Year

Christmas and New Year are joyous and widely celebrated occasions in Panama, marked by a unique blend of religious traditions and lively festivities. These holidays bring families and communities together, fostering a sense of unity, gratitude, and hope for the upcoming year.


As in many other countries, Christmas in Panama is a time of prayer, reflection, and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. The Christmas season begins on December 8th with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and extends until January 6th, when the Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated.


During this time, homes and public spaces in Panama are adorned with colorful lights, ornaments, and nativity scenes. Families engage in the tradition of setting up the nativity scene, known as a “Nacimiento,” which depicts the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.


The Novena, a series of prayers and gatherings, is an essential part of Panamanian Christmas traditions. Families, friends, and neighbors come together for nine consecutive nights leading up to Christmas Eve, offering prayers, singing carols, and enjoying traditional snacks and drinks.


Midnight Mass, or Misa de Gallo, is a cherished Christmas Eve tradition in Panama. Churches are beautifully decorated, and families gather to attend the Mass, which culminates with the singing of Christmas carols. After the Mass, people return home to celebrate with a festive meal, exchange gifts, and enjoy the company of loved ones.


New Year’s Eve, known as “Nochevieja,” is another much-anticipated celebration in Panama. Panamanians bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new one with grandeur and enthusiasm. Many attend parties or gather with family and friends to enjoy a festive dinner.


At midnight, fireworks illuminate the sky in a dazzling display of colors, symbolizing the start of the new year. It is customary to make wishes, express gratitude, and embrace loved ones as the clock strikes twelve.


The New Year in Panama is also associated with traditions believed to bring luck and prosperity for the coming year. One such tradition is to wear yellow underwear, which represents good fortune and happiness. Another custom involves eating 12 grapes at midnight, symbolizing the months of the new year, with each grape representing a wish.


Throughout the holiday season, Panamanians take the opportunity to indulge in delicious traditional foods. Tamales, arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), and lechón asado (roast pork) are commonly enjoyed dishes during Christmas and New Year gatherings.


Christmas and New Year in Panama are not only religious celebrations but also occasions for love, cheer, and hope. They are times when the spirit of giving and joyous camaraderie prevails, embracing the values of family, community, and the anticipation of a new beginning.


Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead, or Día de los Fieles Difuntos, is a significant and deeply rooted tradition in Panama, honoring and remembering loved ones who have passed away. Observed on November 2nd each year, this day is a unique combination of religious devotion, cultural customs, and familial remembrance.


Like in many Latin American countries, the Day of the Dead in Panama is a time to pay homage to the departed souls and celebrate their lives. Families visit cemeteries, clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones, and offer prayers and flowers as a sign of respect and remembrance.


The atmosphere in the graveyards is somber yet filled with love and reverence. Candles are lit, and incense is burned, creating an aura of spirituality and connection with the spirits of the departed. It is believed that on this day, the souls of the deceased return to be with their families, bringing comfort and a sense of closeness.


One of the distinctive customs of the Day of the Dead in Panama is the preparation of “guarapo.” Guarapo is a sweet sugarcane beverage that is prepared and shared among family members during the visit to the graves. It is believed that this offering nourishes and refreshes the spirits as they return to be with their loved ones.


A significant aspect of the Day of the Dead is the creation of “cucuruchos” or “candle hats.” These are handmade, cone-shaped structures made of colored paper and filled with candles. They are placed on the graves as a symbol of light and guidance for the souls of the departed.


Music also plays a prominent role in the Day of the Dead observance in Panama. Traditional folk tunes, known as “cantos de difuntos,” are sung to honor the memory of the deceased and evoke a sense of solidarity and shared grief.


While the Day of the Dead is primarily a Catholic tradition in Panama, it incorporates elements of indigenous beliefs and customs. The blending of these influences reflects the multicultural heritage of the country and highlights the syncretic nature of Panamanian culture.


Despite the solemnity of the occasion, the Day of the Dead in Panama is not solely a day of mourning. It is also considered a celebration of life, an opportunity to remember cherished memories, and a time to strengthen family bonds.


Through the Day of the Dead, Panamanians pay tribute to the people who have shaped their lives and continue to hold a special place in their hearts, ensuring that their memory and legacy endure for generations to come.



The holidays in Panama are a testament to the country’s rich cultural heritage, diverse traditions, and deep-rooted sense of community. From religious observances to cultural festivals, these celebrations play a vital role in fostering unity, preserving heritage, and honoring significant historical events.


Throughout the year, Panamanians eagerly anticipate and wholeheartedly participate in these festive occasions. Whether it is the vibrant Carnival, the patriotic Independence Day parades, the joyful Christmas and New Year celebrations, or the reflective Day of the Dead commemoration, each holiday holds its own unique significance.


These holidays not only bring families and communities together but also attract visitors from around the world, showcasing the warmth and hospitality of the Panamanian people. They provide an opportunity to experience the country’s vibrant traditions, indulge in delightful culinary delights, and immerse oneself in the colorful festivities.


Moreover, these celebrations go beyond entertainment and leisure; they serve as a reminder of the values, history, and shared experiences that shape the identity of Panama. Whether it is reflecting on the struggle for independence, honoring religious devotion, or celebrating cultural diversity, these holidays contribute to the fabric of Panamanian society.


As Panama continues to grow and evolve, its holidays serve as pillars that connect the present with the past, ensuring that the rich traditions and customs are not forgotten. These celebrations foster a sense of national pride, strengthen family bonds, and highlight the cultural wealth present in every corner of the country.


From the indigenous celebrations deeply rooted in the land’s ancient heritage to the Catholic rituals inherited from Spanish colonialism, Panama embraces its multifaceted identity and shares it with the world through these vibrant holidays.


In conclusion, the holidays in Panama are more than just days off work or school; they are an integral part of the country’s fabric, a celebration of its history, traditions, and diverse cultural heritage. Whether you are a visitor or a resident, immersing yourself in these festive occasions offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of Panama. So, join the revelry, witness the colorful parades, savor the traditional delicacies, and embrace the warmth and vibrancy of Panama’s holiday celebrations.