How to Celebrate Semana Santa in Central America?

By Remitbee - Mar 15, 2022

Have you ever attended a Semana Santa festival in America or Central America to be exact? If you don't, you're missing out on one of the world's most vibrant and colourful festivals! There's something for everyone to witness at this festive time of year, from intricate processions and lively music to delicious food and traditional dances.

Even if you are not religious, a Semana Santa celebration is something you should experience at least once in your life. Who can say? Perhaps you'll find yourself enjoying it more than you anticipated.

What is Semana Santa?

The week preceding Easter Sunday, known as La Semana Santa, is one of the most significant weeks in the Catholic calendar. It allows Christians to reflect on the symbolic importance of Christ's death and resurrection.

It's a busy time for sacred celebrations in the various Christian denominations. People commemorate what Jesus did for humanity and how His suffering opened our souls to eternal life. Towns, plazas, religious monuments, and individuals at home construct altars, while processions and prayers all focused on Jesus Christ during these days.

Semana Santa is divided into five days. The first is Palm Sunday, when, according to the Gospel, Jesus rode a donkey back to Jerusalem after 40 days in the desert. He was greeted by a big crowd who proclaimed him to be David's son.

Then there's Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, representing the last supper, Jesus' passion, and eventually his crucifixion. The Eucharist is observed on Maundy Thursday, the crucifixion on Good Friday, and the vigil on Saturday. Lastly, there's Easter Sunday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus.

For Catholics, this is the most important day of the year, even more than Christmas or the day Jesus was born. This is the day, according to the Gospel, when Jesus defeated death and ended up saving us from our sins. It is a joyful day in which life itself is the focus of festivities.

How does Central America Celebrate Semana Santa?

Central America comes alive with colourful processions and festivities in honour of 'Semana Santa,' or Easter week, the most relevant religious celebration of the year.

Although Catholicism is one of the most predominant religions in Central America, each country has its own indigenous cultures that are carried on throughout the holiday. Regardless of where you are in Central America, you will undoubtedly witness activities during Semana Santa.

The most well-known are:

Religious Processions

The images of Christ, the Virgin, and the Cross are removed from the churches and carried in a parade. It is a source of pride to hold them in the procession, and people even practice how to do so in the days leading up to Easter.

Carrying the Cross

Individuals who celebrate Semana Santa gather as a community to reenact Jesus Christ's journey and the mysteries of his passion. The Va Crucis consists of spiritually walking the path that Jesus took to Mount Calvary while hauling the cross and having the chance to reframe his suffering.

This pilgrimage comprises 14 stations, each representing a different scene from the passion about a specific event or the particular type of devotion associated with such depictions. Some individuals set up altars for each station, while others simply walk while saying prayers and stop when it's time to read the station.

Flower Decorations on the Streets

During Semana Santa, some countries in Central America, including Guatemala, have a lovely tradition of adorning the streets with flowers. Each morning, a new mix of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and vibrantly dyed sawdust turns up, which locals and tourists transform into pictures of birds, flowers, religious icons, and colourful designs. There are no written restrictions on the types of designs you can create. Everyone creates what they are fascinated to do!

Feasts Days

While festivities in some Central American countries begin later in the week, Honduras accepts each day of the week as a holiday. Cities and towns start coming to a pause so that people can concentrate on the week's events.

Many Hondurans have unique dishes during the celebration, such as Sopa de Capirotadas, a notable soup with cheese dumplings in a savoury broth. Nacatamales, steamed corn cakes stuck with vegetables and meat and wrapped in banana leaves before being steamed, are served on the table.

Easter Bunny and Eggs

We've discussed the religious aspect of Easter in Central America, but there are some fun traditions for children. The Easter Bunny is the most famous culture, in which on Easter Sunday, parents hide chocolate eggs of various sizes, forms, and colours, and the children must locate them. The child who finds the most egg wins! These eggs symbolize life and how we are reborn because of Jesus' sacrifice.

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