Last week was Semana Santa (you would think I’d have found time to update seeing as how we got half the week off of work…) and it was like nothing I have ever seen back home. The only reason I usually look forward to Easter is because it’s an excuse to have an Easter Egg Jell-o Shot hunt with my friends, but this year was quite an experience.
Throughout Semana Santa there are processions signifying all sorts of important religious things. There’s a procession symbolizing the final hours of Jesus, the burial of Jesus, a procession to celebrate the resurrection (at 6 o’clock in the morning, of course) and all sorts of other ones that I didn’t really catch the point of. Fireworks are shot off, music is played and gigantic altars are carried throughout town.
I think the most impressive part of the procession is the simple act of carrying these giant altars around. Particularly because the procession route starts at the main church in town and continues out of town to a church in a nearby aldea. An UPHILL journey. But everyone seems to have had plenty of practice (watching them switch out carrying teams is very impressive) and are perfectly willing to lug the things around.
The other important part of Semana Santa and the processions are the alfombras or carpets. Using dyed sawdust, flowers and even fruits Guatemalans create artistic masterpieces on the roads… to be walked all over by the procession. It’s a lot of work. And some of the alfombras, especially in Antigua, can take hours to make. My town doesn’t take the art quite as seriously. Case in point: they let me help.
Besides my sad looking sand diamonds, I didn’t really have all that much to contribute to the celebrations (in fact… I didn’t complete one procession. I started following three with good intentions, but after an hour and a half of each I gave up.) But I did see this as a good opportunity for some cultural interchange with my youth groups. So I cut out paper eggs for the kids to decorate and then hunt for and printed out pictures of the easter bunny and I realized something: It’s really difficult to explain what those things have to do with Jesus.