When the Spanish came to New Mexico in the 1500s, they brought with them their Roman Catholic religion. Missionaries traveled to this new territory to bring their faith to the Native American peoples living there, converting many. However, Native beliefs and customs persevered and became intertwined with those brought by the Spanish colonists.
Today, feast days are as much a celebration of ancient Native American traditions and heritage as they are commemorations of Catholic saints. Feast days include traditional dances, cultural activities, food, and arts and crafts. Each dance tells a different story and serves a unique purpose. Every dance is considered a prayer, not a performance, and as such, outsiders are privileged to observe them. Drums beat with an insistent cadence, and the air is filled with the fragrance of piñon smoke.
Native American feast days allow tribal members to come together in celebration of their language, culture and religion. The communities celebrating feast days are open to the public, and members of the tribe will prepare a variety of bountiful meals to share with guests.
Visitors are often fascinated to see that pueblo life is a window into another world. Not relegated to history books or museums, this is a living culture that carries on the centuries-old traditions of ancestors.
Feast days are held on the same date every year. In addition to celebrating smaller feast days, most communities have a larger "annual feast day" celebration in honor of their patron saint.
Before attending one of these vibrant cultural celebrations, be sure to review Native American cultural etiquette.
Jan 1 Most Pueblos: Various dances, Transfer of Canes of Authority to new tribal officers. Taos Pueblo: Turtle Dance, marking the beginning of the new year
Jan 6 Most Pueblos: King's Day Celebration in honor of new tribal officers, Antelope, Buffalo and Deer dances
Jan 22 San Ildefonso: Evening Firelight Dances
Jan 23 San Ildefonso: Pueblo Feast Day, Comanche, Buffalo and Deer dances throughout the day
Jan 25 Picuris Pueblo, Ohkay Owingeh/San Juan Pueblo: Saint Paul's Feast Day
Feb 2 Picuris Pueblo, San Felipe Pueblo: Candelaria Day Celebration
1st weekend of Feb Old Acoma Pueblo: Governor's Feast Day, various dances
2nd week of Feb San Juan Pueblo: Deer dances
Mar 19 Laguna Pueblo: Saint Joseph's Feast Day, Harvest and various other dances
Easter Weekend Most Pueblos: Dances
May 1 San Felipe Pueblo: Feast Day, Corn dance
May 3 Taos Pueblo: Santa Cruz Feast Day, Corn dance, blessing of the fields, traditional foot races
May 7 Pueblo of Acoma: Santa Maria Feast Day
May 26-27 Jemez Pueblo: Weekend Jemez Red Rocks Arts and Crafts Show
1st Saturday in June Tesuque Pueblo: Blessing of the Fields
June 13 Picuris, Sandia, San Idlefonso, Ohkay Owingeh/San Juan, Santa Clara and Taos Pueblos: Saint Anthony's Feast Day/San Antonio Feast Day, Comanche or Corn dance
Father's Day weekend Picuris Pueblo: High Country Arts & Crafts Festival
June 23 San Juan Pueblo: Vespers, foot race and Buffalo dance
June 24 Ohkay Owingeh/San Juan Pueblo: San Juan Feast Day, Corn dance, Comanche/Buffalo dance. Taos Pueblo: Corn dance
June 29 Santa Domingo Pueblo/Santa Ana Pueblo: Corn dances. San Pedro/Saint Peter Feast Day
July 4 Nambe Pueblo: Celebration of the Waterfall. Mescalero Apache: Maiden's Puberty Rites & Mountain Spirits Dance
2nd weekend in July Taos Pueblo: Annual Intertribal Powwow
July 14 Cochiti Pueblo: Saint Bonaventure Feast Day, Corn dances
3rd weekend in July Eight Northern Indian Pueblos: 36th Annual Arts and Crafts Show. Jicarilla Apache: Little Beaver Celebration and dances. Includes Pro-Indian/Open Rodeo, powwow, dances and more
July 25-26 San Ildefonso, Taos, Laguna, Santa Ana Pueblos: Santiago and Santa Ana Feast Day dances
Last weekend in July Zuni Pueblo: Zuni Arts and Cultural Expo
Aug 4 Santo Domingo Pueblo: Saint Dominic Annual Feast Day and Corn Dance. For information: 505-465-2214.
Aug 6-10 Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial: Parades, rodeo, arts and crafts, dances, food, golf tournament, auctions and more. At Red Rock State Park near Gallup. Parking and admission fees at Red Rock State Park. For information: 505-863-3896.
Aug 8-10 Zuni Cultural Arts Expo: At Zuni, New Mexico. For Information visit www.zunitourism.com or call the visitor center at 505-782-7238.
Aug 9 Picuris Pueblo: San Lorenzo Annual Feast Day
Aug 10 Picuris Pueblo: Trade fair and races. For information contact Picuris Pueblo: 575-587-2519. Acoma Pueblo: San Lorenzo Feast Day. Throw Day and dances. For information: 505-252-1139 or 800-747-0181. Cochiti Pueblo: San Lorenzo Feast Day. For information: 505-465-2244. Laguna Pueblo: San Lorenzo Feast Day. Throw Day and dancing; people named Lawrence or Lorenzo throw items from rooftops to visitors. For information: 505-552-6654.
Aug 12 Santa Clara Pueblo: Santa Clara Feast Day. Buffalo and other dances. For information: 505-753-7326.
Aug 15 Laguna Pueblo: Assumption of Our Blessed Mother's Feast Day. Harvest and other dances at Village of Mesita. For information: 505-552-6654.
Aug 23-24 Santa Fe Indian Market: Native American artists and craftspeople from all over the country exhibit. Juried competition, dances and food. At the Plaza in Santa Fe. No admission fee. For information: www.swaia.org or 505-983-5220.
Late Aug Picuris Pueblo: Picuris Tri-Cultural Arts & Crafts Show. Call to confirm dates and times: 575-587-2519.
Aug TBA Ramah Fair: Parade, powwow, arts and crafts, sanctioned and open show rodeos, queen's contest, barbeque, baby contest, 5k run, more. At Pinehill Chapter House, Ramah, New Mexico, Navajo Reservation.
Aug 28 Isleta Pueblo: Saint Augustine Feast Day. Morning Mass followed by a procession. Dances in the afternoon. For information: 505-869-3111.
Aug 30-31 Totah Festival: Crafts fair and powwow at Farmington Civic Center, Farmington. Marketplace, rug auction, contest powwow, more. For information: 800-448-1240 or www.farmingtonnm.org.
Sept 1-7 Navajo Nation Fair: Traditional songs and dances, parade, Miss Navajo Nation Pageant, midway, rodeos, powwow, food, more at the Navajo Nation Fairgrounds, Window Rock, Arizona, Navajo Reservation. For information: Navajo Nation Fair Office: 928-871-6478.
Sept 2 Old Acoma Pueblo: San Estevan Feast Day, Harvest dances. For information: 1-888-Sky-City or www.acomaskycity.org.
Labor Day weekend Santo Domingo Pueblo: Annual Arts & Crafts Market. For information: 505-465-2214.
Sept 4 Isleta Pueblo: San Augustine Feast Day. For information: 505-869-3111.
Sept 8 Laguna Pueblo: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary's Feast Day. Harvest and social dances at Village of Encinal. For information: 505-552-6654. San Ildefonso Pueblo: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary's Feast Day, Corn Dances. For information: 505-455-3549.
2nd or 3rd weekend Jicarilla Apache Reservation: Go-Jii-Yah Feast Day. At Stone Lake. For exact dates and event information: 575-843-7270 or 575-759-3242.
Sept 19 Laguna Pueblo: Saint Joseph's Annual Feast Day. Buffalo, Eagle and Social dances. For information: 505-552-6654.
Sept 25 Laguna Pueblo: Saint Elizabeth's Feast Day. Harvest and Social dances at Village of Paguate. For information: 505-552-6654.
Sept 29-30 Taos Pueblo: Feast of San Geronimo. Dances, races, pole climb, arts and crafts fair. Per-vehicle admission fee. Free bus is provided between the parking area and the Pueblo for those who don't want to walk. For information: www.taospueblo.com or 575-758-1028.
Oct 4 Nambe Pueblo: Saint Francis of Assisi Feast Day. Pueblo Dances. For information: 505-455-2036.
Oct 4-7 Navajo Reservation: Shiprock Navajo Nation Fair. Dancing, song and dance competition, arts and crafts, rodeos parade, more at the oldest annual Navajo Fair. At the Shiprock Fairgrounds in Shiprock, New Mexico.
Oct 11-12 Jemez Pueblo: Event featuring traditional dances, a bread-baking demonstration, and both Native and Non-Native artists selling their goods. Walatowa Visitor Center just north of Jemez Pueblo. For information: www.jemezpueblo.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oct 17 Laguna Pueblo: Saint Margaret Mary's Feast Day. Village of Paraje. Laguna Pueblo Harvest and Social dances. For information: 505-552-6654.
Nov 12 Tesuque Pueblo: San Diego Feast Day. Flag, Buffalo, Corn, Comanche and Deer dances. For information: 505-983-2667.
Nov 27 Zuni Pueblo: Christmas Light Parade. For Information: www.zunitourism.com or call the visitor center at 505-782-7238.
1st weekend Jemez Pueblo: Walatowa Winter Arts and Crafts Fair. For information: 505-834-7235.
Dec 11-12 Pojoaque Pueblo: Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe Feast Day. Pueblo Dances. For information: 505-455-3460. Tesuque Pueblo: Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe Feast Day. Bow and Arrow, Comanche and Buffalo dances. For information: 505-983-2667.
Dec 24-28 Christmas celebrations by pueblo. Please contact pueblo tribal offices directly to confirm if the community is open to the general public.
Dec 25-29 Old Acoma Pueblo: Dances, luminarias. Christmas festivals at San Estevan del Rey Mission, Sky City, Acoma. For information: www.acomaskycity.org or 1-888-Sky-City.
Dec 25-28 Old Laguna Pueblo: Christmas Eve Mass. Deer, Harvest, Arrow and other dances after Mass. Harvest dances continue for three more days. For information: 505-552-6654.
Dec 24 Nambe Pueblo: Christmas Eve Mass followed by Buffalo, Deer and Antelope dances. Picuris Pueblo: Christmas celebrations and "Los Matachines." San Felipe Pueblo: Dances after Midnight Mass. Dances Dec 25. Taos Pueblo: Sundown Procession with bonfires. Tesuque Pueblo: Dances after Midnight Mass.
Dec 24-25 Ohkay Owingeh (formally San Juan Pueblo): Spanish dance drama "Los Matachines" and Pine Torch Procession. San Ildefonso and Santa Clara Pueblos: Christmas celebrations and various dances.
Dec 25-28 Zia Pueblo: Pueblo dances