When I was growing up in Mexico my favorite holiday was Holy week (Semana Santa).

Now that I live in New York, it goes by without much notice--in fact, I almost forgot that Good Friday was coming up. It's all about spring break for my kids. Since Easter Sunday is a national holiday in Mexico, and the Thursday and Friday before are paid vacation days, lots of folks get the whole week off. I definitely miss the Mexican Semana Santa.


We always knew when Semana Santa was approaching when I was growing up because my Mom stuck to meatless Fridays all through Lent (Quaresma). Every Friday with my brother and I would complain, "Fish again Mom? We hate fish!"

Semana Santa wasn't much of a religious holiday, but we used to travel around Mexico with my parents. I remember how amazing it was to witness the traditional celebrations, especially in places like Oaxaca and Chiapas.

During Holy Week catholic worshippers in Mexico participate in the reenactments of the Passion of Christ. They re-enact Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem up to his crucifixion and resurrection.

Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) takes its name from Jesus' entry into Jerusalem where crowds laid palms at his feet. Outside churches, weavers create and sell elaborate woven fronds, which are later hung on doors of homes to ward off evil. My Grandma always used to take us to Church on Domingo de Ramos and she would buy a big palm for her kitchen and two little palms for my brother and I.

Holy Thursday (Jueves Santo) commemorates the Last Supper shared by Jesus with his disciples and Jesus' betrayal by Judas. In Oaxaca City, it's a tradition to visit the seven main churches, which are beyond beautiful.

Good Friday (Viernes Santo) commemorates the trial, crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus. Huge processions are held in city and town streets. In the little towns especially, almost everyone takes part during such procession and we used to sit by a sidewalk to watch, it's such a sad and beautiful thing, I remember it bringing tears to my eyes... there was music with tamboras and I can still picture people screaming "crucifícalo". The most popular dramatic representation of the Passion is held in Iztapalapa, on the east side of Mexico City. People all over the world come to see it.

Easter Saturday (Sábado Santo) commemorates the day in which Jesus rested in the grave. Some communities celebrate by burning paper maché effigies of Judas. We used to love doing this! I remember all the kids gathered around the San Judas, clapping while we watched it burn.

Easter Sunday (Domingo de Resurrección or Pascua) commemorates the resurrection of Jesus. I only remember that this was the last day of the Holy week and my father usually had to go back to work…vacation was almost over.

I'm definitely going to make sure that my kids get to to celebrate a real Semana Santa back home in Mexico. It's an amazing experience and I want them to cherish their traditions and have a sense of the world their parents come from.

Do you celebrate Holy Week?

Image via O'Shannon/flickr

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