Celebrating Semana Santa: Mexico's Holy WeekApr 01, 2021 ● By Savannah Benton
In April, we start to consider planning for the Easter holiday weekend. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many people will likely stay at home. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, you may want to travel to an exotic location. The Easter season is a great time to visit Mexico if you are interested in immersing yourself in another culture. Schools in Mexico don’t have a spring break week in March like we do in the States. Instead, they have a two-week break leading up to Easter weekend to celebrate. Mexico residents are intentional with their time during this period, celebrating the Blessing of the Palms, Vespers of Darkness, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and, finally, Easter Sunday.
Blessing of the Palms, or Domingo de Ramos, is a large ceremony remembering Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem after His long journey through the desert. Participants are given their own blessed palm tree leaves. After the ceremony, they are able to take their palms home and can either keep them as they are or fold them to make meaningful figures such as a cross. Domingo de Ramos is celebrated the Sunday prior to Easter Sunday.
On Wednesday of Holy Week, several churches hold a gathering called Vespers of Darkness, or Los Matinés de las Tinieblas. During this gathering, participants recall the disciples’ betrayal of Jesus. There are a multitude of candelabras, each with 15 candles, lighting up the altar. After a Psalm is sung, a candle is blown out until there is only one left. The last candle symbolizes the death of Jesus.
Maundy Thursday, or Jueves Santo, marks the official start of the Easter celebration. The Chrism, a sacred oil used in the Easter sacraments, is blessed and during this time church bells are silenced until Easter Sunday to symbolize Jesus leaving the world. After Maundy Thursday comes Good Friday (Viernes Santo), when church members reenact the Way of the Cross or Via Crucis. It features a reenactment of Jesus’ walk up to the hill where he is later crucified, which concludes the ceremony.
On Holy Saturday, also called Sabado de Gloria, there is a gathering in which everyone holds a candle for the duration of Mass. Following Mass, participants enjoy a bit of comic relief when figures representing Judas, Satan and other disliked political figures are lit on fire as a symbol of Jesus overcoming all sin.
Finally, on Easter Sunday (Domingo de Pascua), Roman Catholics are expected to come to church to receive communion. This sacred time offers spiritual renewal, as Easter marks the day Jesus rose from the dead. The church bells triumphantly ring throughout the city, symbolizing the joy that comes with this day. Throughout Mexico, citizens are found eating many snacks (botanas) and children may be seen on mechanical rides for their enjoyment at carnivals.
Traveling to Mexico during Holy Week would surely keep you busy as you’d be able to witness and participate in these traditional ceremonies, gatherings and Masses.
Can’t travel for the holiday? St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church, 110 St. Gabriel Way, in McKinney celebrates many of these sacred days as does St.Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 8000 W. Eldorado Parkway, in Frisco. More information about the celebrations at St. Francis of Assisi can be found at stfoafrisco.org/holy-week.
Savannah Benton is a freshman at Legacy Christian Academy in Frisco. She is a competitive swimmer and enjoys piano. This article was written as a Spanish I class assignment in which Savannah was challenged to explore an area of interest in Spanish culture and examine the historical cultural impact and Christian influences in both the local and global environment.