How Is La Semana Santa in Peru

In the week leading up to Easter, Latinos around the world celebrate Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection with special religious ceremonies, parades, vigils, and meals. While all Semana Santa festivities share a common root in traditions from the Catholic Church, different countries have put their own spin on the various events of Holy Week over the years.

Reading about several Holy week celebrations amongst Latinos, I realized Semana Santa in Peru seems especially rich, vibrant, and mystical compared to your typical Holy Week amongst Latinos in the US.

What Makes Semana Santa in Peru Special

As in many Latin American countries, Catholic celebrations in Peru feel infused with indigenous beliefs, imagery, food, and traditions.

I frequently amuse myself with the idea of celebrating in Semana Santa in Peru, simply because as a family we could experience these fascinating differences. And because Peru makes the entire week of Semana Santa a national holiday, you’ll have plenty of company during the festivities.

Best Places to Celebrate Holy Week in Peru

What caught my attention is how several cities in the same tiny country can certainly celebrate Holy Week pretty differently when it comes to parades, foods and rituals.

The whole country of Peru basically shuts down to celebrate Holy Week. While you can find interesting celebrations in any city, unique events and traditions in the following spots typically draw the most visitors.

Iquitos: Holy Week always involves some kind of fasting because the Catholic Church forbids meat on Good Friday.
If In Iquitos, try the meat-free dish, which consists of yucca, a typical staple of the Amazonian region of Peru.
The main attraction of celebrating Holy Week in Iquitos must be viewing the city’s unique take on the custom of scourging penitents on the Thursday of Holy Week.

Many communities have scourgings or whippings to symbolize repentance for sins and help the faithful experience a bit of what Jesus felt before the crucifixion, but only in rural communities like Iquitos will your mother-in-law dish out these whippings!

la-semana-santa-in-peru-1

Porcón: Many Holy Week celebrations involve the carrying of effigies of Jesus and Mary through the streets in elaborate processions. In Porcón, another interesting parade takes place featuring over 50 huge crosses, which locals carry to the chapel with great devotion and piety.

One of the most enriching experiences in the town is to enjoy hearing the traditional liturgies in Quechua instead of Spanish in this small rural community.

Ayacucho: High in the Andes city of Ayacucho, you can experience some of the most beautiful and devout Holy Week celebrations in Peru.

On Wednesday, locals carpet the streets with flower petals in advance of parades featuring images of the Virgin Mary and Saint John, but the real highlight takes place on Friday evening. At this time the image of Christ is borne on a huge litter covered in candles and white roses.

The sight of thousands of white candles moving slowly and solemnly through the streets from the Monastery of Santa Clara to the cathedral, followed by men and women dressed in mourning, serves as a very moving symbol of faith.

Cusco: If you are aiming for enjoying a rich traditional experience of Holy Week in a comfortable environment then Holy Week in Cusco, Peru, has some very interesting traditions. The bonus is the advantage of better tourist infrastructure and lodgings than those of other cities in Peru.

The procession of the Señor de los Temblores (Lord of the Earthquakes) is especially famous. During this parade a holy statue of Christ, said to have saved the city from an earthquake, tours the city’s churches to bless them while people climb up trees and hang off balconies to drop special red flowers on the statue.

For many, the most compelling reason to choose Cusco to celebrate Semana Santa in Peru is the Good Friday Feast. In Cusco, people only fast until noon on Good Friday and then enjoy a banquet of 12 traditional dishes.

Who says Holy Week is not a family trip? The idea of spending Spring Break on the beach sounds very enticing however, never as culturally rich as traveling to Peru to enjoy La Semana Santa.

Have you traveled to a Latin country for Semana Santa?

Holy Week in Cusco Peru

For the entire week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, the people of Peru celebrate the special days of the Semana Santa, or Holy Week.  This week-long celebration is typical in Hispanic culture.  The government of Peru has set aside this time as a national holiday to nurture the country’s unique traditions and to share them with the world. People from all over Peru and all over the world come to experience Holy Week in Cusco Peru, a joyful celebration of the return of Christ with many fascinating twists.

Main Traditions of Holy Week in Cusco Peru

Holy Week in Cusco Peru

In addition to the Catholic traditions typically associated with Holy Week, locals in Cusco have a few very special traditions of their own. The most interesting ones happen on Monday and Friday. Don’t miss these two main attractions of Semana Santa in Cusco Peru.

The Procession of El Señor de los Temblores

On Holy Monday, an ancient, blackened statue of Christ known as el Señor de los Temblores (Lord of the Earthquakes) emerges from the Cathedral to pass through the city and pronounce his blessing on the people.

The statue earned its name in 1650, when locals believe it produced a miracle by stopping an earthquake that threatened the Cathedral. Ever since then, the statue has played an important role in the celebrations of Easter week.

Different groups of people carry the statue along the parade route, and he is met with serenades from bands and showers of red flowers from the ñucchu plant. Any flower that touches the statue becomes blessed and people will collect them to place on their own statues or images of Christ at home.

After traveling to all the local churches, el Señor de los Temblores returns to the Cathedral. The bells ring and sirens wail as he blesses all the people packed into the Plaza de Armas.

Good Friday Celebrations

At two am on Friday morning, the faithful begin performing the Via Crucis, or the stations of the cross. This is done in many Catholic cities, but in Cusco you experience the unique twist of actually being scourged by a priest to receive forgiveness of sins. Plus, you’ll hear the Peruvian interpretations of traditional songs and music.

In most places, people fast for the entire day of Good Friday. In Cusco, they fast until noon and then enjoy the 12 dishes of the Good Friday Feast.

Other Trips Near Cusco While Attending Holy Week

Holy Week in Cusco Peru
When choosing a place to celebrate Holy Week in Peru, many travelers feel torn between Ayacucho and Cusco. While Ayacucho may have larger celebrations, Cusco has just as much passion and excitement with many more options for accommodation. However, in either city you must book early because hotels and hostels fill up quickly.

You may want to plan to arrive a few days before Palm Sunday so that you can explore the city and become familiar with it before the huge crowds descend for Holy Week in Cusco Peru. Definitely stay for the parade on Monday.

If you decide to explore some nearby attractions such as Machu Picchu be back in time to witness the Via Crucis on Holy Friday, and of course enjoy the Good Friday Feast.

Saturday will be a quiet day of family togetherness. The most unique attractions of Semana Santa in Cusco will be over, and you might consider leaving town on Saturday to beat the crowds that will be traveling home after mass on Easter Sunday.

Mexican Cascarones

A Great Way to Celebrate Hispanic Easter

What are Mexican Cascarones?

My favorite holidays are Christmas and Easter, mostly because I love the traditional arts and crafts that come with these two holidays. This year for Easter we will be making eggs filled with confetti instead of the traditional American colored eggs.

Like American Easter eggs you make these eggs by dyeing and decorating them, with one big difference: you remove the egg from the shell before decorating and replacing it with confetti.

The best part of this Hispanic tradition is that you don’t get stuck with dozens of unappetizing, tinted hard-boiled eggs to eat after Easter. Instead, you can use the liquid egg you’ve removed to make whatever recipe you want.

Cascarones History

"Celebrating Easter with My Cousin"  By Marcela H

“Celebrating Easter with My Cousin” By Marcela H

According to historians, this Mexican craft actually originated in China. In the Far East, the colored eggs were filled with scented powders and frequently given as gifts, that is how they became part of Hispanic culture.

After Marco Polo visited China in the 13th century, the eggs became all the rage in the royal courts of Europe, especially in Italy and Spain. They finally arrived in Mexico in the mid-1800s, courtesy of the Emperor Maximilian’s wife Carlotta.

In Mexico, the cascarones tradition began to evolve. Instead of scented powder, Mexicans put confetti into the eggs. They then developed the tradition of cracking the egg over a friend’s head to release the confetti, which inspired the name cascarones or “shell hits.”

I wasn’t surprised when I learned about this tradition because as Hispanics we love having fun and pouring things on each other to celebrate.

My heritage is from Colombia and we don’t make cascarones there however, I read about the tradition and sounded so much fun that I incorporated it in our Hispanic heritage celebrations.

It may sound strange to others to know that several of our traditions involve throwing flour, confetti, flowers and eggs to each other so why not add one more? Eggs filled with confetti!

The Meaning of Cascarones

Many people believe that breaking cascarones over your friends’ heads brings a shower of good luck and good fortune along with the spill of confetti. Sometimes we also say you should make a wish before attempting to gently bump the egg on your friend’s head. If the egg breaks, your wish will be granted.

Cascarones also have a religious meaning. Because they are made from eggs, they symbolize rebirth and Jesus’ resurrection. Cascarones also represent the empty tomb because when you break the shell to fill it up with confetti you take out the egg yolk and egg white.

 

Cascarones and Hispanic-American Culture

Did you know that Hispanic-American culture is actually directly responsible for the current popularity of cascarones?

These colored eggs fell out of favor in Mexico only for the tradition to come back to life in the 1960s with the fiesta San Antonio.

Today, Mexican cascarones continue to be an important part of the Fiesta San Antonio post-Easter celebration. This tradition started in April 21st 1891 to celebrate the heroes of the Alamo battle in Texas.

You can blend American and Hispanic culture even more by adding cascarones to your family’s Easter celebration. For example, you could replace the traditional hard-boiled, plastic, and chocolate eggs we use in American Easter egg hunts with cascarones. This is a great way to gently introduce gringo friends and family to a fun and festive Hispanic tradition.

Making Mexican Cascarones

To make your cascarones, all you have to do is gently crack the top of an egg, peel away a small piece of shell, and let the egg drip out into a bowl. Rinse the egg thoroughly and let it dry.

Then use an egg dying kit or paints to decorate the egg. Allow it to dry again, then fill with confetti and close the hole by gluing a scrap of colorful tissue paper over the opening and you are ready to have fun.  If you want a more detailed explanation visit my page How to Make Cascarones.

Semana Santa or Easter Amongst Hispanics

Why Do We Celebrate Easter
Semana Santa Amongst Hispanics

Semana Santa

Semana Santa
by ANdReita

It all starts when we are little. As Hispanics, we typically grow up practicing the Roman Catholic faith we inherited from the Spaniards. Holy Week is one of the top Hispanic celebrations engraved in our traditions that we treasure dearly.

Living in the U.S. and sending my little one to school made me realize how different are things here for Hispanics when it comes to religion. In Latin America we normally attend Catholic schools, private or public, where religion is a top priority.

Until no long ago there was no separation from church and state in many of our countries of origin, therefore we acquired all the knowledge about these Hispanic celebrations in our weekly dosage of religious studies.

I would say Holy Week is our most important religious celebration, therefore the nuns educated us to answer these questions: Why do we celebrate Easter, its meaning, and how we celebrate it at home and at school.

Pretty much throughout Latin America, no stores or businesses are open at least from Jueves Santo or Holy Thursday on. Schools close the entire week, and for many, Semana Santa is a mixture of relaxation and religious celebration, translation: Beach time and praying.

What is Holy Week

Holy week is the yearly commemoration in the Christian calendar of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Semana Santa starts with Palm Sunday or Domingo de Ramos, and ends with Easter Sunday or Domingo de Resurrección.


How Hispanics Celebrate Semana Santa

Domingo de Ramos or Palm Sunday

Domingo de Ramos Picture by Kurtxio

Domingo de Ramos
Picture by Kurtxio

The entire week has its own mini celebrations. On Domingo de Ramos or Palm Sunday Hispanics start by attending the procession of Domingo de Ramos, where Jesus comes riding on a donkey while the participants salute him with palms. These palms become the dark ashes for next year’s start of lent or Cuaresma on Miércoles de Ceniza or Ash Wednesday.

Jueves Santo or Holy Thursday

On Jueves Santo or Holy Thursday, we commemorate the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. I remember seeing reenactments of the twelve apostles at the “Last Supper” in my neighborhood church, everybody paid special attention to Judas the traitor.

Penitents or "Nazarenos"

Penitents or “Nazarenos”
Picture by Alaskan Dude

In San Juan de Puerto Rico, the famous Procesión del Silencio attracts many who come to see the young man who personifies Jesus. The multitude accompanies him silently to meet Judas who is going to betray him for 30 silver coins.

In Spain and other South American countries it is typical of Holy Thursday to visit the Monumentos. A Monumento or monstrance is the special place where the body of Christ resides for the following two days, Holy Friday and Holy Saturday when we don’t celebrate mass.

My parents, my sister and I always visited seven churches to pray at the Monumentos that housed the body of Christ. Symbolically we accompanied Jesus before his passion and death on Friday at 3:00pm.

Viernes Santo or Holy Friday

Viernes Santo is the busiest day of all because in many countries church goers reunite to participate in the procession that reenacts the passion of Christ. Young men and women make these processions alive by personifying Jesus, Mary, Pilatos, Mary Magdalen, etc., and their last actions.

If there is no reenactment, then “La Procesión del Santo Sepulcro” carries the images of Jesus of Nazareth, La Dolorosa or the Virgin Mary who is in pain to see what is happening to her son, Mary Magdalen, etc., until the multitude arrives at church to pray at the time Jesus dies.

Penitents in Purple

Penitents in Purple
Picture by Guijarro85

In countries like Perú many celebrate with a mix of indigenous tradition and religious fervor. For example, on Holy Friday in Puno, many climb the small mountains and fast; later on they prepare special meals. At the same time youngsters congregate around bonfires to sing and enjoy.

Sábado Santo or Holy Saturday

Semana Santa continues with Sábado Santo which is a day to think about Jesus’ death and meaning as well as his visit to where all dead people are. Participants anxiously await Sunday to participate in the mystery of the resurrection.

During Holy Saturday churches dim the lights, altars are empty and all is quiet. It is a day of silence and reflexion which ends with the Vigilia Pascual

Domingo de Resurección or Easter Sunday

We end the Semana Santa or Holy week with Domingo de Resurrección, Pascua or Easter Sunday. This is the most important day of all because Roman Catholic Hispanics celebrate the resurrection of Jesus which is the main event that gives meaning to our faith.

La Piedad or Mary with the body of Jesus

La Piedad or Mary with the body of Jesus
Picture by A.www.viajar24h.com

Hispanics celebrate by attending Sunday mass where we light the Cirio Pascual or Paschal Candle.  Some traditions are quite interesting, for example the province of Badajoz Spain, celebrates Easter Sunday with a competition of burning Judas.

In cities around Caracas Venezuela, the people not only burn Judas but also baptize him and name him “Secuestro” or kidnaping, “Narcotraficante” or drug trafficker and “Mr. Dollar.” In many other Hispanic countries processions are the norm.

If you want to experience a real Latino Semana Santa you can definitely travel to some of the most beautiful celebrations in Hispanic America like Mompox Colombia, Sevilla Spain, or Arequipa Peru. Hispanic Holy Week celebrations are filled with fervor and tradition, make sure to enjoy one.

Palm Sunday Amongst Hispanics

How We Celebrate Domingo de Ramos with Our Children

Palm Sunday Amongst Hispanics

Palm Sunday Amongst Hispanics

Ready to add depth and cultural relevance to your celebration of the Easter season? Simply explore Palm Sunday amongst Hispanics.

Embracing the Catholic traditions so vital in our Hispanic world will help you express your own Latino heritage and explain it to your American friends and family.

Meaning of Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday commemorates the day when Jesus publicly displayed his status as the Messiah by fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy.

On the Sunday before the crucifixion, Jesus rode into Jerusalem mounted on a young donkey, just as Zechariah 9:9 said that the Messiah would. All the people of the city welcomed him, spreading their cloaks and palm fronds on the ground before him in a victory procession fit for a king.

How We -Hispanics Celebrate

On Palm Sunday, Catholic Hispanics recreate the experience of recognizing Jesus as the Messiah that took place in Jerusalem all those years ago.

First, we attend a special ceremony outside the church before Mass to bless palm fronds or tree branches. Lots of people weave their palm fronds into shapes like braids or crosses before the ceremony.

How We -Hispanics Celebrate

How We -Hispanics Celebrate

Usually the blessing includes a reading of the story of Palm Sunday from one of the Gospels. Then we go inside with our palm fronds and hear the Mass, including a reading of the Passion.

After Mass there will be a procession through the streets of the town, recreating Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. This is a very special moment for families because we participate with our children in the procession and they love it.

Everyone waves their palm fronds as the icons pass by on the floats, shouting “Hosanna” just as the people of Jerusalem did.

One special point about Palm Sunday amongst Hispanics is that most Hispanic countries have palm trees, so real palm fronds can add an extra layer of authenticity to the reenactments.

I remember we had a couple of small palm trees outside our home in Medellin, where I grew up, and my mom simply cut a couple of palm leaves to hand to us right before the procession. That was it, we were all set.

Palm Sunday is only one piece of our big celebration of Holy Week or Semana Santa.

Palm Sunday for Kids

Fun activities for Palm Sunday with kids abound, but first you want to make sure kids understand the meaning and the spirit of the holiday.

I start this process by reading the story of Palm Sunday from one of the Gospels (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; or John 12:12-19).

One caveat, a modern Bible translation is best because it uses words kids can relate to, otherwise you will lose them in the process. For very young kids, look for a children’s book that tells the story with words and pictures.

Reenacting Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem is my favorite part because it helps kids understand the events and meaning of this day.

If you like traveling during Easter, this is a perfect way to mix vacationing in a Latin American country like Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Guatemala amongst others, where you can mix beaches and true Latino Eastern traditions seamlessly.

Some of the best times you can enjoy in Latin America is during Holy Week in Guatemala, Semana Santa in Mompox -Colombia and Holy Week in Peru.

If you plan on staying in the U.S., use puppets or else and let kids put on a play where they take turns being the donkey, Jesus, the disciples, and the citizens of Jerusalem.

When it comes to Palm Sunday crafts, find coloring book pages for little kids, as well as cut-out paper palm frond patterns and palm weaving tutorials for older kids. You can even create a little Palm Sunday figurine set from modeling clay, similar to what you might make for a nativity set.

As you celebrate, remember that this is a joyous occasion. Celebrating Palm Sunday amongst Hispanics allow kids to get creative and imaginative with their Palm Sunday crafts and reenactments, letting them enjoy the holiday.

Lent Ideas

10 Lent Ideas to Spark Your Faith

Coming from a Hispanic background I have celebrated Lent many times in my life, although I must confess, today I celebrate Lent more away from my traditional Catholic upbringing. Nevertheless, La Cuaresma, how we call it in Spanish, is a wonderful vehicle to renovate your faith and spread excellent values to those around you.

One thing is for sure, this holiday is a very important one to many Latino communities, where faith is a vital part of daily life. While Lent is most commonly associated with Catholicism, anyone can use Lent to help them focus their prayers and energy on God in the 40 days leading up to Easter.

I started thinking about the meaning of lent and how could I bring back this tradition into my life in a traditional and non-traditional way and here I have these ideas for you.

Five Traditional Lent Ideas

1. Use Fasting. This is the most traditional and most common way to celebrate Lent. Fasting represents a commemoration of the roughly 40 hours that Jesus lay in the tomb after the crucifixion, as well as the fasting that the apostles did to mourn him.

The exact restrictions of the fast evolved over the years and are now different for various Christian denominations. You might fast all day and only eat at night, or eat a restricted diet that avoids “luxury” foods like eggs, meat, and cheese. Or, you might simply give up one favorite food like chocolate, coffee, or red meat as a penance during Lent.

We lit Candles Some Days of Lent

We lit Candles Some Days of Lent

2. Bake Lenten Breads. Baking Lenten breads like hot cross buns or pretzels is another traditional way to celebrate. The crosses in these breads represent a monk’s arms crossed in prayer.

3. Use Purple Decorations. The color purple is associated with the suffering Jesus experienced during the crucifixion. As the color of royalty, purple also symbolizes Jesus’ status as the son of God. Churches and homes are often decorated with purple during Lent for this reason.

4. Read About the Stations of the Cross. Lent is the most traditional time to perform the stations of the cross, which is a devotional that helps believers focus on each event in Jesus’ final hours leading up to the crucifixion.

Many countries in Latin America have a performance group that acts out the stations with full participation of the audience.

5. Practice Charitable Giving. God gave the world his only son in order to be our salvation. In recognition of this divine gift, believers traditionally step up their own charitable giving during Lent.

This giving act is one of the most perfect lent ideas because it gives you the opportunity to involve your children teaching them the power of giving and how it helps others.

We ask our son what percentage of his savings he is willing to share and we guide him from there. Believe me, it is not his favorite thing to do however, the idea is set in his mind as we have been repeating it over the years.

Five Creative Lent Ideas

1. Participate in Digital Fasting. Yup, giving up TV, video games, email, Facebook, or even the whole internet during Lent is a neat modern twist on traditional fasting. Without these distractions, you will have more time to focus on prayer during Lent.

2. Use Fasting for Charity. Don’t just give up something for Lent-use this act of self-denial to fund your charitable giving. For example, you might give up coffee and contribute the money you would have spent on your daily java to charity.

3. Give Up Negativity. This is one of my favorite lent ideas. In the spirit of fasting, try giving up a negative quality or emotion like anger, fear, or selfishness. Make a commitment to turn your thought to Christ every time one of these emotions tempts you.

4. Embrace Modern Lent Readings. Try reading the Catholic Church’s set of daily Lent Bible passages from a modern Bible translation for a fresh perspective on the scriptures.

5. Celebrate as a Family. Celebrating Lent as a family will create more opportunities for discussion of faith and it will also help all family members have the willpower to follow through on their Lent promises.

You can also set up a game where you use family accountability making sure all members help each other keep their promises for this time of the year. Here is how:

  • Set the goals for mom, dad and each kid.
  • Write the goals (what each person is giving up for lent) and make them clear.
  • Post them in a visible place in the house.
  • The one who cheats or breaks their sacrifice has to place certain amount of money for charity in the money pot.
  • Donate what you collected to your favorite charity.

How to Make Cascarones

Mexican Cascarones a Step by Step Guide

Lets add Hispanic flair to your Easter celebration with cascarones. These colorful confetti-filled eggs are fun to make and even more fun to smash!

Cascarones and Pascua

The beautiful part of making cascarones is that like Easter eggs, the cascarones tradition has elements of both religion and folklore.

The egg represents rebirth and the resurrection, so you can use cascarones to celebrate Pascua and teach your little ones about the religious meaning of this holiday. Plus, you can also enjoy the folklore aspect of the tradition by breaking a confetti-filled egg over your friend’s head.

According to folk wisdom, breaking the egg on your friends head will shower him with good luck and good fortune.

How to Make Cascarones

How to Make Cascarones

TIP- You can even make a wish before you try to break the egg, and if the egg cracks open on the first try, your wish will come true!

What You Need to Make Cascarones

Making cascarones with your kids or friends is super fun and perfect for celebrating Pascua during Semana Santa.. Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Eggs
  • Egg dye kit or paint set
  • Tissue paper
  • Glue
  • Confetti (or colored paper and hole punches)
  • Bowl
  • Funnel
  • Drying rack (empty egg crate works great)

How to Make Cascarones

First: Hollow out your eggs. Simply tap the egg on a hard surface to crack it, and then peel back a tiny piece of the shell to create an opening. I like to use a skewer or toothpick to help make the hole.

Second: Once you have a good opening, pour the raw egg out into a bowl. You can save the raw egg for making some Easter cookies or other treats.

Third: Rinse out the shell thoroughly and place it on your drying rack. Now you’ve got a hollow egg!

If you want to make cascarones with young kids, you’ll probably want to complete all steps involving raw eggs yourself and then let the kids decorate the clean shells.

Fourth: Once your egg shells are dry, it’s time to dye them. You can use any old egg-dyeing kit you might find in the store, but be sure to follow the instructions carefully. There’s always one dye tab that uses water, not vinegar. Return the dyed eggs to the rack and let them dry again.

Fifth: While the eggs are drying make your confetti. You can buy pre-made confetti, but it’s much more fun to let kids make their own confetti using hole punches. I have gotten fancy by using different hole punch shapes like bunnies or stars from a craft store.

Sixth: Once your eggs are dry, you can fill them with confetti using the funnel. If you don’t have a funnel, you can always just use a little cone made out of paper to direct the confetti into the egg.

Seventh: Now dab some glue around the hole and seal it up with a square of colored tissue paper. If you want, you can continue decorating the eggs with markers or paints.

Voilà, you have made your cascarones! You can see how to make cascarones is very simple, and your kids will definitely be excited to search for their cascarones during the Easter egg hunt on Easter Sunday.

TIP: Word to the wise: Try to crack the cascarones outside so you don’t have to sweep up the confetti!

Holy Week in Guatemala

Enjoying Semana Santa in Guatemala

Throughout Latin America, celebrating Easter involves much more than just attending church on Easter Sunday. We celebrate with an entire week of events with specific religious meanings and traditions for each day of the week. We call this week Holy Week or Semana Santa.

Celebrating Holy Week Guatemalan Style

Guatemala is one of my favorite destinations during Easter because it is famous for its Holy Week processionals, or religious-themed parades winding through the streets of cities and villages.

When visiting keep in mind that Guatemala City, Quetzaltenango, and Antigua have the biggest parades.

The most important days of Holy Week in Guatemala or Semana Santa en Guatemala are Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. Pretty much like it is throughout Latin America, which means businesses are totally closed so be prepared.

Holy Week in Guatemala

Holy Week in Guatemala

What you may find valuable is that each city has its unique twist on the traditional celebrations for these days. Wherever you go during this Guatemalan holiday you will be sure to see huge floats with crosses, statues of the Virgin Mary, and other symbols which people carry on the shoulders of purple-robed “cucuruchos” as a show of devotion or penance.

If you are looking for a unique experience make sure you attend at least one reenactments of the Passion, which is also vital to Semana Santa in Guatemala.

Easter in Antigua – Best Holy Week in Guatemala

Take it all in while you walk through the cobblestone streets of the charming, colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala. The streets host thousands of international tourists all year long, but the best time to visit is during Holy Week.

Easter in Antigua

Easter in Antigua

The city of Antigua erupts in celebration during this time, with one of the world’s most unique and beautiful ways of honoring the sacrifice of Jesus Christ: the alfombras de acerrín or carpets of sawdust.

Alfombras de accerín are decorative and aromatic “carpets” made from colored sawdust, flowers, and pine needles. Locals create these elaborate decorations in the streets along the routes of the various Holy Week processionals, like in the picture above.

The carpets or alfombras can be up to 1 km long even though the locals only have 24 hours to make them. Sometimes they use a cardboard template to guide the design, and sometimes they do everything freehand. Either way, the result is a vibrant, colorful carpet that is destined for destruction.

As the holy processionals pass through the streets, the alfombras created in their honor will be crushed underfoot and destroyed.

Be prepared because you would not only see the carpets on the streets, but also in churches which use these beautiful alfombras in preparation for various vigils throughout the week.

 

When to Go and What to Do

While the most colorful parts of Antigua’s Easter celebrations take place during Holy Week, the season actually begins during Lent.

If you want to experience all the religious aspects of Easter in Antigua, you should arrive early and participate in the vigils and processions every Friday and Sunday during Lent. Antigua also celebrates La Semana de Dolores or week of sorrows which is the week before the Holy Week.

If you have only one week to visit go during Semana Santa, when the processionals will become more elaborate and exciting.

If you only have one day to spend in Antigua during Holy Week, try to make it Good Friday or Holy Saturday because each of these days has two processionals, one in the morning and one in the afternoon or evening.

The second Good Friday procession actually lasts all night and travels over the longest alfombras. Each processional will have its own carpets of sawdust. If you are lucky, you might get invited to assist in the creation of the alfombras on these days.

Remember, because Holy Week in Guatemala and especially Easter in Antigua is very popular with tourists, rooms book up fast! Be sure to make reservations well in advance if you want to stay the night.