For me, Easter at home in Canada is a delicious occasion when the family gets together for a turkey feast and a statutory holiday – yay time and a half pay! In predominately Catholic Latin America, it is a whole ‘Easter Season’ starting with the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday through the Holy Week (Semana Santa) reenacting the events of Jesus entering Jerusalem, carrying the cross for His crucifixion and finally his resurrection on Easter Sunday. It brings people together as the remembrance is public and experienced in action. Devotees carry immensely heavy floats of Holy Week scenes, reactant the Stations of the Cross, people walk alongside the long slow processions and make gorgeous sawdust carpet art with coloured sawdust and flowers to beautify the path for the parade. Incense fills the air and a marching band follows each float emphasizing the scenes with dramatic music. We have been really lucky to really experience a diverse range of celebrations during our cycle through Guatemala and Nicaragua, where cities are shut down for its festivities. We walked alongside the devoted in the procession and witnessed the colours, smells, music and the incredible strength of people acting out their faith.
We first experienced a Semana Santa procession during Lent in Antigua, Guatemala, which is known for it’s elaborate celebrations.
Semana Santa procession in Antigua, Guatemala – Jesus carrying the cross
Semana Santa procession in Antigua, Guatemala – Procession to the Mary float
Semana Santa procession in Antigua, Guatemala – Mary float
Nicaragua also celebrates Semana Santa in style and we were in the oldest city in Central America, Granada, to witness both a Friday night Stations of the Cross procession, which happens every Friday during Lent until the last one on Good Friday, and a procession for Palm Sunday. Note that the music is a dramatically minor funeral dirge when Jesus is carrying the cross but the music is light and celebratory for the procession of the palm.
Friday Stations of the Cross procession for Semana Santa festivities in Granada, Nicaragua
Palm Sunday procession for Semana Santa festivities in Granada, Nicaragua
We then travelled to the volcanic island of Ometepe in Nicaragua where the Easter celebrations were smaller but no less interesting.
Semana Santa procession in Altagracia, Isla de Ometepe, in Nicaragua where children are carrying colourfully decorated crosses
Easter Sunday procession in Altagracia, Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua. The Jesus procession meets up with the Mary procession in a musical and fireworks frenzy that is the climax of Semana Santa