Semana Santa: Holy Week in Ecuador
The important religious weekend is coming up soon. The Holy Week what is widely known as ‘Easter’, in Spanish ‘Semana Santa’ is right around the corner. Semana Santa is also a big event in Ecuador. The week is celebrated with various events and religious ceremonies with rich cultural traditions.
Semana Santa starts from a week before Sunday called Palm Sunday and lasts for a whole week. Palm Sunday, which happens a week before Semana Santa, compels Ecuadorians across the country to parade down the street with palm fronds, making their way to mass. If you’re in Quito stop by the Plaza de San Francisco to see a ceremonial blessing of the palms. Traditional dances and hymns fill the streets, and nearly everyone carries a palm frond.
According to Catholic tradition, Holy Thusday commemorates Jesus’ Last Supper. On Holy Thursday, Ecuadorians visit graveyards with offerings for departed loved ones. These offerings usually consist of bread that is baked especially for the occasion. In the evening the churches of Quito open their doors, with the glow of the candle-lit altars reaching the streets. Visitors to Quito should make sure to walk around the historic district on the evening of Holy Thursday.
Good Friday is a solemn holiday, and Ecuadorians take to the streets to perform dramatic tributes to the crucifixion of Christ. Quito has an especially massive parade on Good Friday. Visitors are usually taken aback by the purple, pointed hoods worn by a large number of participants. These hoods are traditionally worn as a sign of penitence, a custom that dates back to the middle ages.
Ecuador’s loveliest masses take place on Holy Saturday. Holy Saturday masses take place in the evening, in anticipations of Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday is an intensely religious celebration for Ecuadorians. Easter masses take place all day, and carry on into the evening.
There are various ways of celebrating Semana Santa. To begin with, on Good Friday people should avoid to eat meat so they choose to prepare a traditional dish called ‘Fanesca’. It is a big size soup/stew with various ingredients: corn, lentils, peanuts, peas, quinoa and cod. Although the tradition of eating Fanesca is originally from Spain, Ecuadorians have given this dish a personal touch, as many of the grains are of Andean origin. So, if you’re coming to Ecuador during this special time be sure to ask which is the best restaurant to eat Fanesca and try it! Additionally, other traditional foods during this time include, guaguas de pan and arroz con leche.
There are many unique cultural events as well. For example, a parade is taken place every year. On Good Friday, there is a mysterious and colourful events and traditions take place throughout the Lent period, from the strange and cultish Arrastre de Caudas or the “Dragging of the Capes” .
In many small villiages, people celebrate Semana Santa with some unique ritual forms such as ‘Diablada’ as well.
If you are in Quito, Ecuador, why don’t you go out for Good Friday?
Written by: Jin