In celebration of Semana Santa, we’re taking you on a trip of how the week leading up to Easter is celebrated in the Spanish-speaking world. To keep things a bit more interesting, here are some of the more unique, wackier, and surprising ways Semana Santa is celebrated. Maybe these will make you re-think how “normal” the idea of the Easter Bunny hiding eggs full of candy is.
Spain has one of the most quintessential celebrations for Semana Santa, but the tradition can be quite surprising for outsiders. There are large processions in most cities, particularly in Seville, Valladolid, and Zamora—which has some of the oldest celebrations in Spain. There are biblical readings and processions with large “pasos” (religious statues) to re-enact the scenes surrounding Jesus’ death. But perhaps the most striking element of Semana Santa in Spain is the capirote—the pointed silk hat worn by clergy members in the processions. The garments date back to traditions from the days of the Inquisition and are also popular in some Latin American countries. The cone shape of the head covering is actually meant to point to Heaven, reaching out with prayers for penance. You were probably already thinking it, but it’s a common cultural faux pas to confuse this with the outfits of the Klu Klux Klan. That’s why Spaniards like Antonio Banderas have spoken out on the true significance of the Semana Santa wear.
The religious processions in Mexico do not take Semana Santa lightly. In some ways they’re like those in Spain, but they get a bit more serious with their live re-enactments. In Taxco, outside of Mexico City, some marchers are known to lash each other or carry thorns on their backs. One tradition condemns Judas with the burning of papier-maché effigies of sinister looking characters. I have a feeling they won’t be playing Lady Gaga’s “Judas” during this fiesta…
Semana Santa in Colombia puts an emphasis on the gastronomic celebrations in addition to the religious ones. Some of the dishes are quite exotic and can include iguana, crocodile, and tortoise. On the Colombian coast, iguana eggs are a delicacy. Maybe it’s time to re-think my definition of an Easter Egg. However, the consumption of iguana eggs has been on the decline lately to help protect this endangered species.
You might be familiar with world famous destination theme parks like Disneyland Paris, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or Six Flags Mexico. But Buenos Aires is the proud home of one type of theme park you might not have seen before — a Jesus themed religious park. According to its website, Tierra Santa is Latin America’s first religious theme park and it’s quite popular during Semana Santa. Guests can view exhibits and live shows on major events in the history of Christianity like the story of Adam and Eve, the Last Supper, and other Holy Week themed events. There are also exhibits on different cultural components of the life and times of Jesus, like the cuisine of the Middle East circa 15 AD. Guests brave long lines if they choose to go during Semana Santa — the park’s website and Facebook page have reminders of that no promotions or reservations are accepted during this peak time.
While it’s becoming less common, in Paraguay it was common to give a light spank to children as an Easter blessing. Usually after Easter mass, children were generally eager for their “blessing” because it meant that then they could start the real celebration—the Easter feast! “Sopa paraguaya” is particularly popular during the holidays.