Easter in Guatemala

Easter in Guatemala | Multicultural Kid Blogs

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Easter often brings to mind colored eggs and chocolate bunnies, perhaps Easter bonnets and a parade. In Guatemala they have an even more colorful tradition for Semana Santa (Holy Week).  Semana Santa is a time for solemn celebration. The stores close so people can participate in religious rituals and processions. Easter falls in the growing season so the indigenous farmers also pray to their old gods for a good harvest.

Easter in Guatemala | Multicultural Kid Blogs The biggest and most famous celebration in Guatemala is held in Antigua. Antigua was the capital of Guatemala when Spain ruled the country. People travel from far and wide to see the Easter celebration. Throughout the week there are processions to honor the final days of Jesus’ life. Each night a funeral band plays music outside of the church and people gather for food, drink and games.  Before Good Friday the local people make big stencils of pictures of things like birds, flowers and religious symbols. They use these stencils to create alfombras de acerrin, or sawdust carpets, in the streets.

Easter in Guatemala | Multicultural Kid Blogs
GuateRob at en.wikipedia [CC BY 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Easter in Guatemala | Multicultural Kid Blogs
Photo By Infrogmation of New Orleans  [GFDL, CC BY-SA 2.0, CC BY-SA 2.5  or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The designs are often intricate. They are made with colored sawdust, flowers, fruit, pine needles and other natural things. These beautiful pieces of artwork are to ready the streets for the religious procession that will begin early on Good Friday. To create these sawdust rugs, the locals work together and fill in someone’s image. Boards laying across the “rug” are used to add the details to the middle without messing up the work already completed.

Easter in Guatemala | Multicultural Kid Blogs
Antigua Easter Carpet Macaws. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Early on Good Friday morning the procession begins. It includes andas, or floats. The first has a statue of Christ bearing the cross. It is carried by men dressed in purple robes. The next has a statue of Mary, Jesus’ mother, and is carried by women dressed in black. The procession winds through the streets of Antigua that are adorned by the beautiful alfombras de acerrin. This procession is rooted in the Andalusian tradition and was brought to Antigua by the Spaniards.  The andas can weigh up to a couple of tons and can require 50-100 people (or cucuruchas) to carry them.

Easter in Guatemala | Multicultural Kid Blogs
By Luis Ortega (propia) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By the afternoon of Good Friday the entire city is draped in black. Black crepe is hung on buildings and trees. People are dressed in black and walk through the streets with lanterns and burning incense. A man carries a crucifix and is followed by people carrying banners with Jesus’ last words on them. The image of Christ is laid to rest at 11 p.m. at the church.

Easter in Guatemala | Multicultural Kid Blogs
Semana Santa Antigua Guatemala by Jialiang Gao www.peace-on-earth.org – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Holy Saturday processions are dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The floats are often smaller and carried by women in their best clothes and sometimes in high heels. Easter Sunday is a happy celebration. Fireworks can been seen and heard throughout the city. The mood of the day is casual and joyful.

Easter in Guatemala | Multicultural Kid Blogs
By Infrogmation of New Orleans [GFDL, CC BY-SA 2.0, CC BY-SA 2.5 or CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
The beautiful sawdust carpets are amazing pieces of art, but they are destroyed from all the processions. They are walked over and the pictures are no longer there. To teach about Easter in Guatemala to my six-year-old, we read Sawdust Carpets by Amelia Lau Carling.

The story is about a young girl whose family goes to visit her cousins. The baby cousin is going to be baptized on Easter morning in Antigua. The girl gets to help make one of the sawdust carpets in the neighborhood and then on Good Friday morning the neighbor gives the children the extra sawdust and materials and they make their own carpet right before the processions begin. The girl gets upset at first to see their carpet get destroyed, but the neighbor helps her understand that the purpose of the carpet is to adorn the path of the procession and they can begin to think about what to create the next year. In truth the carpets are away for the locals to offer their sacrifice to the procession. After reading this book, we wanted to make our own “sawdust carpet” in a smaller version. Since we do not have sawdust around our house, we decided to make a glitter picture. First my daughter sketched a picture on a piece of cardstock. She drew her clubhouse since the girl in the story did a house as her carpet.

Easter in Guatemala | Multicultural Kid BlogsThen we picked areas to work on and put glue on them. I used a paint brush to try to get the glue to cover the areas. We started with the windows. When we got the blue for the sky, I realized we needed to trim the paper to have enough glitter to actually cover it.

Easter in Guatemala | Multicultural Kid BlogsOf course our picture will not be walked on, so it is not the same as the sawdust carpets, but it was a fun way to bring a bit of Guatemala to our own Easter celebration.

Easter Around the World 2015 | Multicultural Kid Blogs

This post is part of the Easter Around the World 2015 Series. Please visit the Series Main Page to see even more wonderful Easter traditions from around the world.

Sources for this post:

Around Antigua: Easter Week in Antigua Guatemala

Adventure Life: Guatemala Easter Festival

Dalal, Anita: Guatemala:A Portrait of the Country Through Its Festivals and Traditions, Grolier Educational 1999.

Fiesta Guatemala

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Carrie is a former high school math teacher with diversity training and helped advise many diversity clubs at the schools she taught. Now she is a stay-at-home mother of an elementary school age daughter and very active with her church. She writes about her life with her daughter and the fun things they do as well as reviews of books, products and more at Crafty Moms Share (https://www.craftymomsshare.com/).

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2 thoughts on “Easter in Guatemala”

  1. My family is from Guate and I have been able to spend Semana Santa there (a few times) and there is nothing like it. It’s a completely different celebration and remembrance of Easter.

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