Fiesta de San Salvador is celebrated annually on August 6. Founded in the 16th century, the national holiday celebrates Salvadoran identity and marks the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ — the patron saint of the capital, San Salvador.
Also known as the August Feast, the holiday kicks off with a period of dancing, music, food, and merrymaking.
History of Fiesta de San Salvador
Fiesta de San Salvador’s history stretches back to the 16th century. The festival celebrates the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ — an event in the New Testament where Jesus Christ’s appearance transformed into something more than human. His face began “shining like the sun,” and his garments became as “white as snow” — an external symbol of his divinity.
But how did the celebrations originate in the first place? When Pedro de Alvarado conquered a new island in the name of Spain, he decided to name it after Jesus Christ. Not just any name, however. He decided to christen the island ‘Provincia De Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, El Salvador Del Mundo,’ meaning ‘Province of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.’ The name was a mouthful, so people swiftly abbreviated it to ‘El Salvador,’ meaning ‘The Saviour.’ To really drive the point home, they also named the capital ‘San Salvador.’
Over time, Spanish influence spread across the Atlantic, and one of the results was the establishment of the Spanish tradition of ‘Fiestas Patronales,’ where every city would celebrate its patron saint by throwing an annual festival. Each town and city had a different patron saint, and they celebrated their beloved saint with aplomb.
However, for San Salvador, things weren’t so simple. When you have Jesus Christ as the patron saint, opinions can differ on which day celebrations should happen. Usually, people would remember patron saints on the day of their death. But the world already had Easter, which allowed it to commemorate the death of Christ. The same went for Christ’s date of birth. So, after much deliberation, the city decided to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration instead, making it a national and religious holiday.
Today, Fiesta de San Salvador is celebrated nationally on August 6. One of the festival’s highlights is ‘la bajada,’ meaning ‘the descent,’ where a large parade carries a wooden statue of Christ dressed in purple through San Salvador’s streets. The parade ends in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the statue descends into a chalice or globe. Moments later, it emerges dressed in white to symbolize the Transfiguration.
Fiesta de San Salvador timeline
Raphael paints the Transfiguration of Jesus — his last work of art.
Alvarado establishes San Salvador.
El Salvador gains independence.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints constructs its first temple in El Salvador and fourth in Central America.
Fiesta de San Salvador FAQs
What do you do on Fiesta de San Salvador?
Fiesta de San Salvador is a national holiday in El Salvador. People celebrate with family and attend religious events.
How does El Salvador celebrate the Day of the Cross?
The Day of the Cross is celebrated on May 3 in El Salvador. During the holiday, families decorate a cross using paper ornaments and fruit.
What kind of food do Salvadorans eat?
Besides pupusas, Salvadorans also love ‘yuca frita,’ or ‘deep-fried cassava.’ Other favorites include quesadillas, empanadas, and tamales.
Fiesta de San Salvador Activities
Join the festivities
Celebrations in San Salvador kick off with ‘El Correo,’ a procession of song, dance, and theater. Revelers dress up as characters from Salvadoran folk tales, and you can do that too! Just don’t forget to pay your respects when the statue of Christ travels through the streets.
Visit a cathedral
Nowhere near San Salvador? Pay your nearest cathedral a visit for some inner reflection and serenity.
Try some pupusas
It isn’t a party until you bring out the pupusas. ‘Pupusas’ are ‘stuffed tortillas’ and quintessentially El Salvadoran — they’re the country’s unofficial national dish! So, if you’re in El Salvador, try some meat- or cheese-stuffed pupusas yourself.
5 Facts About El Salvador That Will Blow Your Mind
The heart of indigo production
El Salvador is the hub of ‘añil’ or ‘indigo' plant production.
The surf central
Despite being the smallest country in South America, El Salvador is one of the most popular surfing locations on the Pacific coast.
The land of volcanoes
The country has over 20 volcanoes, with the most active erupting 26 times in the past 500 years.
Small but packed
El Salvador is the smallest but most densely populated country in Central America.
The Impossible National Park and a gorge
The country’s El Imposible National Park is named after a dangerous gorge that has claimed many people's lives.
Why We Love Fiesta de San Salvador
The world knows of the Transfiguration. But very few places celebrate it, making San Salvador’s celebrations extra special.
It creates unity
Fiesta de San Salvador is about national pride. It also highlights the importance of community. We love how the festival brings both these aspects together.
It celebrates indigenous cultures
The holiday is a platform for indigenous art, theater, and music. It meshes tradition with religion and celebrates the people of El Salvador — from the newest immigrants to the oldest inhabitants.
Fiesta de San Salvador dates