Easter Traditions in 7 Latino Countries
Today, it may seem that this holiday is only for children with lots of chocolate bunnies and multicolored eggs. But Easter is much more than that. It has very important religious meaning. And if you practice the Catholic faith, it may be even more important to you.
Easter commemorates the suffering of the Christ, his delivery, purification of sins for the entire world with his own blood and resurrection to eternal life. Easter gives hope because despite the losses we may suffer, miracles do exist. And life is pure and leads to eternal bliss.
The sacrifice of the Virgin Mary is another important aspect to consider, when she saw her only only child die for the good of humanity. This is a time to reflect and to celebrate the festivities. We need to plot our path, methods, associations and our future.
So, it’s more than just easter egg hunting or bunny ears. It’s a celebration of life! It also embodies the arrival of spring. This season emulates rebirth, fertility and life.
Easter is also an important date on the calendars of other religions, apart from the Christian faith. In most languages, Easter comes from the word Pesach, a Jewish festival strongly linked to Catholicism. Jewish Easters last for 7 to 8 days, reminding them of the Exodus and freedom of the Israelite nation from the Egyptian Pharaoh.
Beyond pagan traditions added to this date, those of us who celebrate the event in our homeland are connected to a more religious celebration. From Palm Sunday, where we celebrate Jesus entry into Jerusalem blessing olive branches, to the Via Cruces on Holy Friday, many of these celebrations are shared between Latino countries around the world.
Today, I will share some of these with you. Will you join me?
In Argentina, Palm Sunday is blessed by olive branches at a plaza near the Parish. Then people take them home to their house as a blessing and in general, they are placed near the image of a saint or at the entrance of the house for protection. After a year, these leaves are replaced and the old ones are burned.
On Holy Thursday, 7 main churches are visited. There is a mass but no communion takes places. The images of Christ are covered with a purple mantle and this color corresponds to the officiating priest. On Friday, the Via Cruces takes place. The sorrowful mysteries of Christ are on display for all to see. People meditate and contemplate their lives as they walk along. Then they stop at each of the stations, from the steps to the Via Cruces, which represent the most remarkable episodes of the passion. In many cases, the complete representation is displayed with costumes and music along the main roads of each neighborhood. People carry candles in their hand while they sing and pray.
In Salta and Tucumán, people make hermitages, a type of wreaths made from leaves, seeds and local fruit which decorate the streets.
The Sabbath is kept. No music is played and many spend the day in reflection. The celebration begins on Sunday at noon after Easter mass. Traditionally, lamb is eaten but a typical Argentinian “asado” is also enjoyed. On Thursday and Friday, no meat is eaten. During this time vigil empanadas, cod and the famous Galician empanada are part of traditional meals. The tradition of Chocolate Easter eggs was also adopted and each time they get bigger and bigger! The idea is to share with the whole family! A round Easter pastry is another traditional element to these festivities. It is also common to find epic biblical movies like Ben-Hur or the 10 commandments on TV!
In Peru, the tradition of washing feet imitating the example of Christ washing the feet of the apostles is maintained. On Holy Thursday, Peruvians from Lima visit the 7 main churches. The Via Cruces is done on Friday.
It is also common to avoid red meat on Holy Thursday and this is usually replaced by Cod. If there is a mass, there is no communion at night. The Blessed Sacrament (An image of the body of Christ) is displayed in a procession all night and then a vigil takes place. On Friday, no work or mass is done.
In Ayacucho, mass gatherings are formed, where songs echo in the Quechua tongue and marketplaces are full of color and joy.
In Tarma, celebrations are done with procession rugs covered in flowers. Hot drinks are common due to the proximity of the Andes in the distance, which makes the weather much cooler. In Huaraz, hundreds of birds are released during the celebration and in Cuzco, the Inca capital, windows are decorated in fabric and woven tapestries with gold thread. Fireworks light up the night sky and ceviche, is a typical dish serve during these special events!
The dwellers of Sonsonate and Izalco, annually convene hundreds of tourists and locals to admire the beautiful rugs made by neighbors. Bright materials and coloring is used, including natural materials like: rice, sand or flower petals. These are some of the most well-known celebrations around the world.
In these processions, crosses, the image of the Virgin Mary and the Christ are carried by many.
Ecuadorians celebrate their own versions of Holy week processions. In Quito, on Good Friday, the procession entitled: “Jesus, the great power” and the “Virgin Mary” is celebrated. A great multitude is observed carrying statues in glass receptacles along the historic street.
On the other hand, other traditions include the Ecuadorian Fanesca (Ecuadorian Easter soup). We will give you the recipe here!
In México, movies become a part of the festivities too! A classic tale is: “El milagro de Marcelino, pan y vino,” a Spanish film from the 50s, focused on a younger audience.
On Holy Thursday, 7 temples are also visited in memory of the 7 times Jesus was taken between Herod and Pontius Pilate to be sentenced. Or the 7 stages from the last supper up to his death. Whatever the case, the number 7 is magical and important to the Catholic faith. There are also processions and silent prayers to keep this holy day, even in the “nosiest” of towns.
On Good Friday, the Via Cruces takes place. The most popular symbol is the star, and in Iztapalapa, Mexican state, around 3 million people gather for this event!
Young worshippers and volunteers prepare both physically and spiritually for a year to relive the last stages of Jesus life: From carrying a heavy cross, to being whipped and even crucified with ropes and nails! So much devotion and zeal! This celebration is so important, it is usually transmitted on TV networks.
And when it comes to eating and drinking, ‘romeritos’ are typical during the season. They come from a regional plant cooked with a pepper sauce base and other spices. Potatoes pies with tuna and “poblano,” a type of pepper filled with chicken, tomato sauce, cheese and tuna is another delight.
In Mompox, Colombia, residents adorn the figures of saints with all of the jewelry they possess! Then they display them along the streets. This is very curious, right? Here in Popayán, Spanish settlers erected six churches and one chapel, which are currently used for religious representations related to Holy week.
The festival of sacred music presents concerts with orchestras and chorus groups from several countries, all gathered to celebrate Holy week.
One of the Venezuelan traditions during Easter is burning Judas on the resurrection Sunday. Another, not too well known, gave rise to the popular expression similar to: “Finding a needle in a haystack.” This saying refers to Good Friday where it is customary to search for 7 little sticks of Rosemary with the belief that they possess the power to protect from thunder and lightning!
People also wear costumes during the season! On the day of the “Nazarene Cult,” a sacred image is carried during a procession where devotees gather to pray and thank God.
And where gastronomic blends are concern, it is customary to eat a “Capybara”, a 70 kilo, large rodent (Yes, you read right!) that Venezuelans prepare either salted or dry along with more modern recipes!
And you…what is your tradition during Easter?