While a lot of people seem to know about Easter Sunday and the period of time that comes before it, Lent, there is a special time the week before Easter Sunday that not too many people know about. Holy Week,or Semana Santa as some countries call it, is observed in the United States and in Mexico.
Holy Week Celebrations in Texas: Neocatechumenal Way (The Way)
The Neocatechumenal Way is a Catholic form of faith that began in the early 60’s in Madrid, Spain. There are many parishes across the country. In Texas, one parish is located in San Antonio.
Kimberly Uribe, 18, celebrates Holy Week at her local parish. ”Holy week actually has a meaning for me, because on Holy Thursday I am given the opportunity to ask for forgiveness to those I’ve judged or done bad against,” said Uribe.
Holy Week is a four-day Easter celebration. From Thursday to Sunday, Holy Week is commemorates the life and death of Christ. Here’s how the parish in San Antonio celebrates Holy Week:
Holy Thursday: This is represented as the day of the last supper, where Christ washes the feet of all 12 of his disciples. In observance, each community will meet and listen to readings specifically for this day, and after the readings, will have a “washing of the feet” where any member of the community may take the bowl of water and rag in the center of the room, and wash the feet of those they would like to ask for forgiveness from.
Good Friday: This is celebrated as the day that we are invited to reflect on what our “cross” is. Much like how Christ had his cross of eternal suffering, Catholics are asked to question what their cross is. It is during this reflection that some are invited to share their cross and how the day’s readings might have helped them with it. Much like Thursday, the communities will meet and have corresponding readings, where they will then give personal reflections. As a conclusion, a cross is put at the center of the room, and each member of the community will kneel in front of the cross, pray for their cross, then when they are finished praying, kiss the cross and sit down until everyone who would like to has gone.
“I see the cross present and how my cross is present as well,” Uribe said.
Holy Saturday (the day before Easter): The day before Easter Sunday is a day of fasting, prayer and mass. The entire day before adults and teens will not eat for the entire day until after Easter vigil when they go out to dinner together.
“My favorite is the Vigil,” Uribe said. “Everyone wears their best clothing and is happy because of the resurrection.”
Holy Week in Mexico
Holy Week is very popular in Mexico and observes the same events, but with additional traditions — some of which are inspired by Spain.
One thing in particular, is the two-week vacation that schools get for the week of and the week preceding Easter. The first “holy day” is Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) which falls on the Sunday before Easter. This is part of the reason why schools begin “Easter vacation” the week preceding Easter. Another unique Mexican tradition is that the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico paint themselves white during Holy Week. There are many additional traditions for Semana Santa that aren’t normally done in the U.S.
In Mexico, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are celebrated differently that from the U.S.
Holy Thursday (Jueves Santo): Similar to the event of washing feet, in Mexico it is not uncommon to see some visit seven churches during Jueves Santo to represent the vigil the apostles held that night.
Good Friday (Viernes Santo): On this day, multiple local passion plays (re-enactment of the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus Christ) are held throughout the streets. The reenactments are also known as the “Via Crucis” or passion plays. Passion plays are viewed in some areas of the United States, but it’s very popular in Mexico. In the city of Ixtapalapa, a passion play of over 4,000 local actors is performed where almost 2 million people come and watch.
Holy Saturday (Sabado de Gloria): On Holy Saturday many statues of Mary can be found wearing black dresses because this is represented as the day that Mary is in mourning. Another tradition performed on this day is the burning of Judas for his betrayal of Jesus. On this day, an figure representing an effigy of Judas (often similar to a popular politician) is burnt.
Easter Sunday (Domingo de Pascua)- There is not a lot of festive-like events on this day as it is typically a day where people attend mass and celebrate with their families.
Whether you are religious or not, how do you celebrate Easter?