GREAT AMERICAN VACATION
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Shops and services are open on most Chilean holidays except September 18, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. On these days, shops close and public transportation is minimal.
September 18 is Chile's independence day, and celebrations last for almost a week. Attending a fonda or ramada (smaller version of a fonda) is a must. At these parties communities gather to eat empanadas, drink chicha (potent corn-based alcohol), and dance la cueca, the national dance. Rodeos are also common this time of year.
Watching the fireworks from Valparaíso or Viña del Mar on New Year's Eve is a remarkable experience. They go off at midnight all along the coast. Arrive early for the best view and wear clothing that can get wet, because Chileans spray each other with champagne.