Semana Santa in Latin America - Family, Celebration and Religious Tradition
Mar 29, 2013
Semana Santa, or Holy Week in English, is one of the most important religious holidays celebrated throughout Latin America. Celebrations take place the entire week, commencing on Palm Sunday, commemorating the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, through to His resurrection on Easter Sunday. All of the situations from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday are represented through masses, dramatizations and processions with either real people or effigies.
In some aspects, this is much different from how you may picture North American’s celebrating Easter. Brightly colored eggs, the Easter Bunny, a great deal of chocolate and fake grass in baskets is all usually synonymous with this time of year. Of course, there are usually various religious events and mass celebrated over the weekend, but it’s rare to see a weeklong celebration that every single person in town participates in.
The residents of Latin America (Honduras, Costa Rica, Ecuador, etc.) don their best clothes – little girls may even wear their confirmation dresses - and celebrate religious tradition. Businesses close down, schools are out and everyone is with family and friends celebrating. This is also a time when locals will travel to other areas of their country to enjoy the break.
Usually the processions and parades that take place during the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday are solemn and gloomy. Whereas, beginning on Good Friday, the celebrations become more jovial and celebratory. In addition, Catholics aren’t supposed to drink alcohol during the mourning of Jesus, and so at midnight on the Wednesday prior to Good Friday, all bars and liquor stores close.
This time of year is an incredibly memorable time to visit any country in Latin America. Although they all have their own specific ways to celebrate and traditional foods, this week is a guaranteed good time filled with culture and ritual. Something to keep in mind though, is how busy it does get… as mentioned, locals take advantage of this time off to travel themselves, so beach resorts are usually sold out or close to it. It’s also important to remember that most businesses (aside from those in the hospitality industry) will be closed during this week; including banks and other government institutions.
Regardless of how those either living in or visiting Latin America choose to spend the days during Semana Santa, one thing’s for certain… it is a very important holiday. It manifests itself in all areas of daily life from television programming and transportation to work schedules, food and even alcohol sales.
As a foreigner living in this extraordinary part of the world, you have the opportunity to become a part of a sacred and cherished holiday. Even if you aren’t a Catholic or even religious, experiencing the passion, love and tradition that encompass such a festival can be a very humbling (and fun!) experience.
To learn more about local traditions, foods and culture, why not consider visiting on a Discovery Weekend?