My fascination and appreciation for Mexico grew at an early age. One of my favorite parts of taking trips there is meeting the locals. I’ve found Mexican people to be passionate about family, celebrations and tradition. Although they have a strong sense of who they are and of their ancestry, they are also warm and inclusive. They care greatly for the people around them – both those related by blood and those that are part of their community. And as a population, Mexicans are generally very devout when it comes to religion. As a result, their holidays are a beautiful combination of family, community, joyful celebration, tradition and religion.
Easter is arguably the largest and most celebrated of holidays in Mexico. Schools and many businesses are closed during the two week period between Palm Sunday and the Saturday following Easter. The streets of the capital are uncustomarily quiet as it’s common for families to take vacation during this time. A country of dedicated Christians, rooted in ancient cultural traditions, Mexican citizens take great pride in reenacting the story of the Passion of Christ. They hold processionals where they honor his journey, beginning with Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem and continuing through his crucifixion and eventual resurrection.
The first week of Easter, Semana Santa, is the Holy week. Semana Santa starts on Palm Sunday and extends through Easter day. During this week, Mexicans celebrate the last few days of Christ by holding elaborate ceremonies. One of the most important traditions is to stage a big production where people act out the capture, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. The players try to represent the actual events as closely as possible. This means the person who plays Jesus Christ often wears a real crown of thorns and carries a cross weighing hundreds of pounds on his back. Actors take their roles seriously, training rigorously to be able to carry out the physical and emotional requirements of their parts.
The way that Easter is celebrated in Western tradition with a magical bunny who drops by at night, leaving colored eggs and presents in his wake is quite different from the way that day is treated in Mexico. Rather than putting on egg hunts and giving children baskets full of candy, Easter Sunday is generally spent in quiet reflection, attending church with family. The following week is, called Semana de Pascua, which translates to Easter Week. Children are still off of school and lots of adults are on vacation with them. Because of this, the resort towns are filled with Mexican nationals and the prices are elevated if you’re traveling in from the U.S.
Still, one of these years, I’d love to travel the country, observing the elaborate Semana Santa celebrations and traditions that are unique to each region. Mexico is a place you can visit often, and yet still be surprised to learn about new, fascinating cultural practices and ancient rituals each time you go.
Guest blogger, Jacqui Keady, is a freelance writer and lifelong reader of mystery and romance novels. She lives in Folsom, California with her husband of nearly 30 years and two beloved dogs.