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A Journey Into Paradise

Easter in Mexico Continues with Viernes Santo Celebrations Nationwide

16 April, 2014

As one of Mexico’s most important and widely celebrated national holidays,Easter and the days leading up to it every year are filled with longstanding religious rituals and traditions that are sure to be of interest to visitors from around the world – regardless of what their own personal religious beliefs may be.

According to Roman Catholic tradition,Good Friday,or Viernes Santo,marks the day when Christ was crucified,making this one of Mexico’s more somber national holidays. In cities,towns and villages across the land solemn processions can be seen carrying statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary through the streets,often with participants appearing in full period dress.

In many regions of Mexico it is also common for a public,outdoor Passion Play to be held on Good Friday,which is a dramatic and much-anticipated performance designed to recreate the entire Biblical story in what is often an all-day event that involves hundreds of amateur performers. In addition,many devotees will create an Altar de Dolores,or Altar of Sorrows,to recall the pain and suffering endured by the Virgin Mary at this pivotal time in history.

“While all Roman Catholics remember the Passion and the Stations of the Cross,the memorial processions in Hispanic communities bring these introspective practices to life,” writes the Houston Chronicle. “They emphasize his suffering by making it as real as possible.”

As part of a two-week-long celebratory and commemorative period,the week prior to Easter Sunday (Domingo de Pascua) begins with processions followed by a special mass on Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) and continues through Holy Thursday (Jueves Santo) and Good Friday (Viernes Santo),followed by Holy Saturday (Sabado de Gloria),which memorializes the only full day in which Christ was reportedly entombed. In Mexico,Holy Saturday is often marked by the burning of a Judas effigy,which dates back to Mexico’s Spanish roots,when carpenters in Spain would make wooden figures to represent Judas,only to be hung and burned in the town squares on Holy Saturday.

Today,in towns and cities throughout Mexico,oversized papier maché effigies of Judas are often burned outside the cathedrals or in the town squares,often literally winding up blown to bits,much to the excitement of onlookers who delight in the symbolic display of good winning over evil. In bygone days,world-renowned Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were often involved in creating Judases to burn as a way to propagate the use of art in political and social commentary.

Finally,on Easter Sunday (Domingo de Pascua) much of the nation’s Catholic population – a number the U.S. State Department estimates to be at roughly 88 percent – will attend mass and enjoy a quiet celebration with family. Unlike the U.S.,Mexico does not typically include the Easter Bunny,egg hunts or jellybeans in its Pascua celebrations,but festive crowds may be seen in the town plaza,where children and adults alike enjoy games and food,including tacos,ice cream and other snacks provided from local street vendors. Unlike in the U.S. and other parts of the world,many people in Mexico will continue to celebrate Easter by taking time off work throughout the following week,meaning that the nation’s Holy Week (Semana Santa) celebrations can actually last for as long as two weeks.

In 2013,Mexico’s top vacation destinations experienced record travel around the Easter holidays,with the Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau reporting “one of the most successful spring weeks ever,” with hotel occupancy rates soaring above 90 percent and the Cancun International Airport routing more than 500 flights daily. This spring,Mexico is once again poised to be the top destination during Easter and beyond,with travel experts predicting a wider demographic of worldwide travelers and a growing number of visitors from the U.S. and Canada.

Have you ever spent Easter in Mexico or do you have questions about traveling south of the border at this time of year? Post your replies and inquiries in the comments section below today and we would be more than happy to help!