Easter in the USA and Semana Santa in Guatemala

This post is also available in: Español

IMG_7251Easter is one of my children’s favorite holidays. My little guy is all about the chocolate while my daughter loves the idea of the Easter bunny, the parties and the crafts. Easter is almost over and while my kids run around the house in a sugar rush after eating more chocolate eggs than they should have even though I swear I only looked away for a second, I think about how different their memories of Semana Santa will be from mine.

Rice Krispies bunny cake for easter
Rice Krispies Bunny Cake Photo by Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz

The Meaning of Semana Santa

We love decorating eggs, taking pictures with the Easter bunny at the mall and hunting for treats while wearing cute dresses and lovely baskets but the real meaning of Semana Santa (Holy Week) is not only about that. In Latin America Holy Week is a holiday that is taken quite seriously and it’s importance warrants most people taking a whole week off from work.

saw dust carpet Holy week Guatemala
Saw dust carpet for Holy Week celebrations in Guatemala
Semana Santa traditions in Guatemala.
Semana Santa traditions in Guatemala. Photo by Roberto Urrea Flickr.

Semana Santa in Guatemala

In my home country of Guatemala the traditions kick off right after Carnaval and the colonial town of Antigua Guatemala hosts the most beautiful religious celebration in America. Massive solid wood floats or andas bearing statues of Christ with the cross wind their way through the colonial city’s cobblestone streets which have been covered by intricate carpets made of colored sawdust, flowers and even fruits. The whole city overflows with cucuruchos, men dressed in purple, who carry the andas on their shoulders. The air is filled with incise and the smell of corozosand the city is invaded with tourists from all over the world trying to get the best pictures of a celebration that is not only beautiful but bursts reverence and significance. I have to admit that even though I come from a catholic family I have never been very religious but just being in Antigua during Semana Santa and witnessing the processions is a religious experience in itself and something you will never forget.

Saw dust carpets book
Saw dust carpets book or children.

Blending traditions in our home

I hope that one day my children will be able to experience Semana Santa in Guatemala but in the mean time we talk about how their grandparents, uncles and cousins are celebrating in Guatemala and about the colorful traditions and how they are different from the traditions in the United States. We look at pictures and they specially love reading the beautifully illustrated book Alfombras de aserrín: Sawdust Carpets, Spanish-Language Edition.

picking eggs for Easter
Picking eggs for Easter. Photo Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz. All rights reserved.
Semana Santa traditions in Guatemala.
Semana Santa traditions in Guatemala. Photo Binary Dreams on Flickr

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