These are two very exhilarating words. Spring connotes a feeling of growth, beauty & freshness, and Break, well, who doesn’t love a break? A break from whatever you are consistently involved with. Whether it’s a fun & exciting thing or a mundane & taxing thing, a break from routine, or a break from reality is always welcome 🙂
For a week or two in March, sometimes April, in America we celebrate Spring Break. Whatever that means for you, whether you take off to a beach resort location, fly to Italy for 8 days, or simply relax in your house with your kiddos, everyone should have a little rest, however they deem worthy. In many Spanish speaking countries, the time we call Spring Break, there they respectively refer to this time as Semana Santa (Holy Week). This year, Semana Santa official runs Sunday, March 24, 2013 through Easter Sunday on March 31. 2013. (Although this is one of the most popular Latin holidays, many people will take off the Friday before to begin their vacations making the unofficial start date, Fri. March 22nd).
Semana Santa is celebrated in many different ways, depending on country! It’s really an amazing phenomenon because while it’s contrived from the same origin, the method & exposition can be so vastly unique, it’s really quite amazing! Semana Santa is the week leading up to Easter and includes the Christian holidays of Palm Sunday, Maundry Thursday & Good Friday.
Have you investigated how & why Semana Santa is celebrated in YOUR host country? Let’s check out some facts:
In most Provinces of Argentina, Semana Santa is a time of parades, special Masses, Vía Crucis (special religious event – Station of the Cross), reenactments that remember the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ. Overall, whether you a devout Christian or not, it is a great time to remember & respect the traditions & customs of each town & city. It is most definitely a time of rest & reflection for those practicing the Catholic faith and those that are not. It is a time of reflection para todo!
The Vía Crucis designates a specific path along which Jesus walked & many people reenact this walk to feel closer to God.
This week is really an amazing time to be in the city of Buenos Aires! For a more detailed calendar of cultural events during this week, visit the Official Website of Buenos Aires.
Although small in size, the country of Costa Rica has one of the strongest & largest cultural & religious strengths in Latin America! During Semana Santa the country flares with vitality & presence holding their dramatic religious processions & services, dedicated to the last remaining days of the life of Jesus Christ. The majority of Ticos & Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica consider this to be a time to be spent with their families and with travel to all distances to be able to do so. Because of their AMAZING geographical location, breathtaking coastal lines, and superbly luscious rainforests, many bigger cities are void of locals as they will spend their time off relaxing at the beaches & at tranquil mountain Hot Springs & getaways. Ticos observe the celebration in a variety of ways: bullfights, rodeos, dancing, parades, fireworks, etc.
Other than Christmas, this is one of the TOP, most important religious holidays in the country of Mexico! The country of Mexico is almost 90% catholic therefore making this celebration an almost completely country-wide assembly. A great highlight of this celebration in Mexico is that the weather is absolutely wonderful during this time! Many families go to the beach or enjoy camping. Of course there are the shared traditions such as the reflection of religion, fiestas, processions, vigils, reenactments of the Crucifixion of Christ and the Easter Sunday celebration, but Mexico also holds their own unique version of the creating of the Palm crosses, celebration of the Good Friday mass and of course the burning of Judas in effigy (for betraying Christ).
Easter Eggs in Mexico? Another unique aspect to the way Mexico celebrates Semana Santa (and the day of Pascua) is with their colored eggs (just like the US!). But in Mexico, the insides are emptied out, filled with confetti & called cascarones.
The reenactments & dramatizations are one of the main ways the Mexicans observe this holiday. In some towns, they go all out as to put on full displays of the Last Supper, the Betrayal, the Judgement, the Procession of the 12 Stations of the Cross, the Crucifixion and, lastly, the Resurrection. Flagellation or even, real crucifixion is often included as well. Some participants will prepare the entire year for these events, therefore making them splendidly staged & very detailed in costumes & acting. It’s quite an amazing time there!
Spain outdoes other European countries in its celebration of Semana Santa. It is eminently renown for its celebration of Semana Santa! The celebrations comes immediately the week before Easter and the most charismatic & entrancing celebrations are in Andalucía (specifically Seville & Málaga).
One of the most iconic visions during this time may be initially off-putting for Americans, however, this traditional garb, called a Nazareno, has been a traditional ornamental dress for this holiday for as long as most can remember! These robes can vary depending on which type of procession they are being used.
Major towns in Spain may have a procession every night of Holy Week! The parades will include a variety of people & displays, including many floats anchored in religious decoration, followed by a plethora of Nazarenos. The Nazarenos are dressed in a long-hooded túnicas made of velvet or satin, and will carry a vela. Some may carry a sceptres. During the processions, people carry statues of saints on floats or wooden platforms. Some may discern a sense of mourning, which may seem oppressive to foreigners. The end of the Easter week & all its processions will blast off with Easter Sunday – a day full of light & color; cathedral & church bells can be heard blaring throughout the cities and mostly all of España.
Of course this wonderful & very traditional holiday is celebratated around the world and spawned from the same, very magical religious meaning! We hope that during this time you take a moment to relish in some of the very fun, and traditional ways your host country celebrates La Semana Santa and everything it encompasses! 🙂