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Semana Santa

Updated on October 10, 2014

Virgin Mary

Semana Santa

Semana Santa here in the America's is also called “Easter Week” or "Holy Week" is a huge event in many parts of the world. Semana Santa originated in Spain and dates back to the 15th century.Many cities around the globe celebrate this week to remember Christ Jesus and his death on the cross for our sins. This magnificent celebration was brought to Central America over five hundred years ago from the country of Spain.

Spain to this day still celebrates Semana Santa. It is a huge celebration throughout the country and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Spain from all over the world.

Semana Santa Parade

Celebrations of Semana Santa

Easter week for most of the Christian world is an important week. But many around the Spanish speaking parts of the world take this week out of the year as the most important time of the year for their culture. With the migrations of people from Spain to Central and South America the people brought along the cultural traditions like Semana Santa with it's huge celebration’s and parade processions taking place both in Central and South America and. The week of Semana Santa especially in Guatemala in the town of La Antigua comes alive with celebrations, daily street processions to remember the death of Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.

Carpeted Streets for Semana Santa

Getting things ready for Semana Santa

I have been to La Antigua Guatemala many times, I have close friends from here in United States that are missionaries in Antigua. This city is always alive with activities taking place daily plus this area of Guatemala draws thousands of people to explore the ruins in the area. But during Holy Week the city takes on a complete transformation of its beauty.

Let’s back up a bit, to the week before Holy Week. During the time of Lent there is a period of time when all the preparations are taking place for the Semana Santa. But even before this time the town’s people paint the exterior of their homes to make them look fresh and bright. The streets around the city are mostly cobble stone, so the city workers start checking all the roads to make sure they are smooth and no loose cobble stones are present. The streets during Lent and especially during Holy Week are crowded with thousands of tourist, so they want to make sure cobble stones are not loose and people get hurt from tripping and falling.

Many long hours and hard work go into making all the floats for the processions that take place on the streets of Antigua. These floats are made out wood with plenty of handles for the carriers of the floats. It is not like here during our parades where vehicles drive the floats, these floats are carried by strong young men.

Colored Sand and Sawdust for making the carpeted streets

Carpeted streets for the Semana Santa celebration.

One of the famous decorations for Semana Santa are the street carpets. In Antigua the hours of work that goes in preparing the streets to be carpeted. These carpets are made from sand and sawdust to make the cobblestones streets smooth. Then the streets are dyed different colors and bright flowers, pine needles, and other forms of plants are laid out as the carpet. Sometimes colored sawdust is prepared for weeks in advance and then hours are spend carefully pouring, sifting and placing the sawdust into stencil to make their elaborate carpets for the parade processions. The carpets express both religious as well as contemporary messages in the designs. The carpets along the processional route are made during 24 hours prior to the procession. If more than one procession is scheduled to go down a street a new carpet is made for each procession.

Estimates of over 200,000 people come to Antigua to participate in this week long celebration. People from all over the world and also many people from the hills and mountains of Guatemala flock to this colonial town to watch the colorful Semana Santa celebrations or Holy Week, leading up to Easter.

Food Vendors For Semana Santa

Traditional Food During Semana Santa.

Semana Santa Street Food can be found all over antigua. Most of churches will have people out on the street offering food to the by standers. Since most the processions go in front of churches and around the square in the center of town, you will find most of these street vendors. Semana Santa food is all about tradition. Most of the people are prepared to eat foods that are served traditionally during these celebrations. Here is a list of commonly served food during Semana Santa:

Tostadas, Enchiladas, Tacos, Chiles Rellenos, Elotes Locos, Dobladas, Algodones, Chupetes, Mole de Platano, Rellenitos, and Empanada de Manjar.

Lodging during Holy Week

As you can see Holy Week in this part of the country is extremely popular. Antigua is full of rich culture and heritage at any time of the year, but during Holy Week Antigua is bright and colorful and the spiritual movement is at its peak with all the processionals and celebrations to remember what our Lord Jesus Christ did to same us. La Antigua Guatemala has everything a visitor needs to celebrate this week, but remember as far as lodging goes make sure a year or more before your trip to Antigua that you have cemented in your housing reservations People each year when they check out of the hotel they are staying in they will make their reservation for the next year celebration.

Saint Joseph Cathedral

Visiting the ruins in Antigua

A must to see while in Antigua for Holy Week is the ruin of Saint Joseph Cathedral. This Roman Catholic Church is located in the Central Plaza of town, which means on the city square. The church was built in 1541 and went through several earthquakes and was totally demolished in 1669. Then in 1680 and as the cathedral grew it became the largest church in Central America. But again in 1773 a devastating earthquake damaged the church but it did not totally take the building down.

Today much of the building is still standing and restoration work is being done to the building. With it unique character and old world charm the building draws thousands of people through it. There is a small entrance fee which the money goes to help pay for the restoration of the building. Visitors can also visit the catacombs and the basements of the ruins.

Like I said if you are going to be in town for Semana Santa this is a must to see.

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