How Is Easter (Semana Santa) Celebrated in Mexico? | Mexico

How Is Easter (Semana Santa) Celebrated in Mexico? | Mexico

Giant statue of Jesus outside of Rosarito, Baja, Mexico Next to Christmas, Semana Santa is the most widely celebrated holiday in Mexico, as is Easter for Christians all over the world. In Mexico, nearly the entire population is Christian, with 83 percent identifying as Roman Catholic and another 10 percent identifying as another Christian denomination. As a result, there is a rich culture of Easter traditions and celebrations. In fact, for children and many adults in Mexico, Easter is a two-week affair involving all sorts of festivities, masses, reenactments, and processions.

Semana Santa

Semana Santa, or "Holy Week" in English, is the week leading up to Easter during which there are numerous traditions that take place. The major traditions are centered around the important days within Semana Santa, which include:

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday, or Domingo de Ramos, is the Sunday immediately preceding Easter Sunday and begins with large Catholic masses. Palm fronds are woven into crosses and other various arrangements and often brought to the altar to be blessed with holy water. Flowers and the palm frond crosses fill the streets, along with other religious symbols.

Many towns in Mexico have processions (similar to parades) in which they reenact the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey. Palm fronds are laid in front of a Jesus actor riding a donkey, as they march through the city streets.

Though celebrations take place throughout the week, of particular importance is Maunday Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

Maundy Thursday

Maundy or Holy Thursday, called Jueves Santo in Mexico, is the day that commemorates the the Last Supper and Jesus washing of the apostles' feet. Many in Mexico will commemorate this event by offering prayers at seven churches, in reference to seven places Jesus went between his arrest and his crucifixion. From Thursday until Easter church bells are silent.

Good Friday

Good Friday, or Viernes Santo, represents the day that Jesus was crucified. Understandably, this tends to be a solemn day. Many communities will have another procession with statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus at the center. Some will reenact the Passion Play, portraying the trial of Jesus, and his crucifixion, suffering, and death.

Holy Saturday

Burning of the Judases celebration on Sabado de Gloria in southern Mexico

Holy Saturday or Sabado de Gloria represents the mourning of Jesus' death. Statues of the Virgin Mary are dressed in black. Many communities in Mexico will burn cardboard or paper mache models of Judas as punishment for the disciple who betrayed Jesus.

In other Mexican towns, like San Miguel Allende, the 'Burning of the Judases' celebration is taken a step further. It involves giant paper mache Judases, painted like disliked social and political figures. In the ceremony, they are sentenced to be hung and then blown up with fireworks.

In other communities Sabado de Gloria is a quiet day for relaxing with family and friends.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday is the beginning of Pascua (the week including and after Easter). The day is reserved for crowded masses and ringing church bells. When mass is finished people fill city centers in celebration.

Mexicans generally have one or both of these weeks off work, schools are closed, and many businesses are closed. Many Mexican-Americans travel to Mexico to be with family, as well.

Most Semana Santa events are held outdoors, meaning there is a lot of street food (antojitos) available. Since the dietary restrictions of Lent are in effect the days before Easter, food can include, depending on what part of the country you are in, cheese pambazos (a Mexican white bread), fried fish, plantain dishes, tamarind, and fruit.

The most phenomenal Holy Week celebrations take place in Iztapalapa in Mexico City, Taxco, San Miguel de Allende, and San Luis Potosí.

Semana Santa is a spiritual and festive time in Mexico. It is a special time to celebrate and enjoy age old Mexican traditions.