The traditional Great Feast takes place from 4 to 23 January every year in Chiapa de Corzo, Mexico. This celebration of music, dance, handicrafts, gastronomy, religious ceremonies and feasting takes place in honour of three Catholic saints: Saint Anthony Abbot, Our Lord of Esquipulas and, most importantly, Saint Sebastian. The dances of the Parachicos - the word refers both to the dancers and to the dance - are considered a communal offering to these saints. They start in the morning and conclude at night, as the dancers carry statues of saints throughout the city, visiting places of worship. Each dancer wears a carved wooden mask with headdress, serape, embroidered shawl and multicoloured ribbons, and plays chinchines (maracas). The dancers are led by the severely-masked Patron, who carries a guitar and whip, while playing a flute accompanied by one or two drummers. As they dance, he intones praises to which the Parachicos respond with cheers. The dance is transmitted and learned simultaneous with its performance, with young children taking part, imitating the adult dancers. The technique of mask-making is passed from generation to generation, including cutting of the wood, drying, carving and decorating. The dance of the Parachicos during the Great Feast embraces all spheres of local life, promoting mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals.
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