Easter Week, Semana Santa, in Antigua, Guatemala is a Catholic celebration worth visiting as it is one of the most beautiful religious celebrations in Central America. It is a time of reflection of the religious fervor brought from Spain five hundred years ago.
This celebration starts on Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. Every Friday, one church displays a biblical scene using a canvas painting, elaborate carpets made of colored sawdust and a variety of flowers, vegetables and fruit as an offering from the earth to God, they call this “Velaciones”.
Each Sunday, during Lent, there is a procession with a float bearing statues of Jesus with the cross and the Holy Virgin representing a biblical scene. These processions make their way through different villages and city streets. Men in purple robes and women in white or black blouses and skirts are in charge of carrying these floats all through their route. A band accompanies each procession playing “marchas” or funeral marches.
These processions and “velaciones” are planned for months in advance by local artists and the “Hermandades” (brotherhoods) who are in charge of the church’s activities. These processions are a luxurious, baroque and often dramatic event – and not brief ones. The longest one, at this time, is “Jesus Sepultado de San Felipe”, which leaves the church at 3 p.m. on Good Friday and returns at 6a.m. on Saturday.
These traditions and especially the making of carpets on the streets where the procession will pass bring families together as well as national and international visitors as they crowd the streets to help to make them and wait for the processions to pass.
Although this is a Catholic celebration, visitors can enjoy a cultural experience that brings people from all places together in this quaint colonial city.
We recommend Elizabeth Bell’s book: Lent and Holy Week in La Antigua Guatemala.
“Learn about the largest celebration in the Western Hemisphere for Easter Week with chapters on its history, carpet making and activities including a complete calendar of more than 50 activities during this time of the year. You can also see color photographs of the processions and church sculptures.”