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Celebrating Semana Santa and its Traditions

Image: WikiCommons

Christmas may be one of the most popular holidays worldwide, but in Mexico, Semana Santa is a close second. Semana Santa, or Holy Week, begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday, April 9-16. Semana Santa includes attending Mass on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday, but many Mexicans will also use the holiday as vacation time.

Thinking about heading toward the Caribbean during Semana Santa? Follow us on Pinterest to see all of our favorite places in Riviera Maya! Just be sure to plan ahead, as this is one of the busiest times of the year.

Semana Santa celebrates the Christian holiday of Easter, and some cities in Mexico, like Ixtapalapa, Patzcuaro, San Cristobal de las Casas, and Taxco, will feature reenactments of the events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion. Those who perform in these reenactments are the best of the best. It is a great honor to perform, and the actors are known for their incredibly moving performances. The actor who plays Jesus will often wear a crown of thorns and carry a cross weighing hundreds of pounds over great distances. These actors must prepare mentally and physically before Semana Santa, and they depend on the support of their families and communities. Aguascalientes and San Luis Potosi will hold silent torch lit processions.

Semana Santa Traditions

Image: Ricardo Macias/WikiCommons

A popular tradition across the country is to break cascarones, or colored eggshells filled with confetti, over friends and family. Another common tradition is the Passion Play, or the reenactment of the Passion of Christ. It is traditional for cities to display religious images from the church and to decorate altars. Palm crosses and flowers adorn cities across Mexico during Semana Santa.

This enormous holiday may also include some more unique traditions. These include acts of physical torture, public displays of political or social ridicule, or displays of resolutions.

The more devout Mexicans will show their penitence, or prove their faith, by inflicting physical pain on their bodies through whipping or carrying large religious objects on their backs. The Spanish introduced this tradition, which dates back to the middle ages.

Another more unique tradition is “The Burning (or Firing) of the Judases.” This tradition also originated in Spain, but when the Spanish burned people at the stake for heresy during the Holy Inquisition, Mexicans protested by making Spanish inquisitors into dolls and burning them instead. This carried into a new tradition where now, Mexicans will make Judas dolls and dress them up as unpopular political and public figures. These dolls are then hung up and destroyed with fireworks.

Some Mexicans will show their devotion to Christ by visiting twelve different churches in one day for the twelve apostles.

Easter Celebration

The second week of Semana Santa is for celebrating Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. The Easter celebration signifies new beginnings, similar to a New Year’s celebration.

If you have the wonderful opportunity to visit Mexico during Semana Santa, you won’t regret it. This is the perfect time to witness rich culture and life, and to celebrate Easter.

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