If the street above looks a little more colorful than the average road, it’s because the carpet has been rolled out for Semana Santa, or holy week leading up to Easter. The “carpets” are made from colored sawdust and flowers and illustrate the Stations of the Cross. There are many reasons to visit Copan in the western region of Honduras, but the procession that will march down this street on Good Friday morning (April 6 in 2012, if you want to start planning) is a big draw; arrive early to admire the “carpets”. Thanks to Flickr user
Adalberto H Vega for capturing them before they got trampled!
For the past two years I’ve been in Latin America on the days leading up to Semana Santa (or Holy Week), and I’ve been completely astounded by the Colombian and Cuban people’s devotion to their faith. By way of contrast, here in Honolulu, I didn’t even get a day off yesterday (Good Friday), though most state businesses did. My students tell me that in Europe they observe a 4-day weekend during Easter or have their Spring Break coincide with the Easter holiday, which I believe should be the case for any Christian majority nation.
Regardless, Semana Santa is on my mind right now. For Christians around the world, today is that waiting period post-crucifixion and pre-resurrection. Easter Saturday activities this year range from bargain deals at grocery stores to Easter Eggstravaganzas all over the U.S. and Canada.
Our photo today comes from our friend from Montreal, epicxero, who appears to have traveled extensively around South America. This particular photo nicely contrasts the church tower with city as a backdrop.
Happy Holy Week/Semana Santa/Easter, everyone!
You won’t find any pastel colored eggs, chocolates or fuzzy white rabbits in Mexico during Easter. In fact, there isn’t a speck of the materialistic, Cadbury-bunny-laced Easter we have come to know and love at home. And, believe me, I looked for those addictive Mini Eggs everywhere.
Mexicans are predominantly Catholic and Holy Week, or “Semana Santa” as it is known here, is the most important religious holiday of the year. Kids get the week before and after Easter Sunday off and it is a time for family and church. These two weeks off are equivalent to our Spring Break so travelers can expect beaches and hotels to be crowded…make your reservations early.
Tom and I caught a little bit of the celebration on Good Friday (Viernes Santo). The devout congregate in groups all over the city, each outfitted with a large cross. These groups walk throughout the neighborhoods towards the church, stopping at homes to perform prayers and blessings. Eventually all the groups meet at the church for the service. In other parts of the country, the crucifixion is reenacted and passion plays are performed. One of the biggest celebrations is held in Iztapalapa, just south of Mexico City.
“Sabado de Gloria”, Holy Saturday, tells the story of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. Papier mache Judases are created and then burned or destroyed as part of the ceremony. The service we attended was not so inclined and instead included readings by from both the Mexican and English community. People just kept piling in and eventually all the seats were taken leaving latecomers standing in the aisles. Women were hanging onto restless children, statues of the Virgen de Guadalupe were clutched tightly in hand, thousands of candles were lit and re-lit, bottles of water were raised for blessing and children, trussed up in their best clothes, were baptized and welcomed as members to the Catholic church. The evening ended with a shower of bright fireworks that could be seen from all over town.
Two words of advice on attending a church service:
Many Mexicans turn up casually dressed, but it is wise to be respectful and dress appropriately. Women should have their shoulders covered and men should wear a nice shirt and pants.
It is worth bringing your own candle so you can participate in the service. A ton of candles are lit during this event…it is like one big bonfire waiting to happen, so make sure you know where the closest exit is or sit near someone with a big bottle of water.
On Easter Sunday, Domingo de Pascua, Mexicans attend Mass and then spend the rest of the day enjoying the company of family and friends, sadly for me, it is not filled with bunny trails or chocolates either, sigh.
Anyone want to send some Mini Eggs my way?
“No Wrong Turns” chronicles Kelsey and her husband’s road trip — in real time — from Canada to the southern tip of South America in their trusty red VW Golf named Marlin.