Holy Week (Semana Santa) is the Christian spring festival. It is the week leading up to Easter Sunday. The date varies every year because it is based on the northern spring equinox and the phases of the moon.
There are very solemn, theatrical processions during Holy Week. In pre-literate times, religious theater brought the community together and taught the faith. Every little town across the Christian world has its own version.
Preparations are as important as the event itself, because they bring communities together. We don’t make much of it in New York, but Holy Week is a very big deal in Latin communities. In the Latin world, many families take the
The Days of Holy Week
The days of the week are:
- Palm Sunday
- Holy Monday
- Holy Tuesday
- Holy Wednesday
- Maundy Thursday
- Good Friday is a national holiday in many Latin countries.
- Holy Saturday and the Easter Vigil
It all leads to Easter.
In some countries, Easter Monday is a national holiday.
Sunday, April 2, 2023
Sunday, April 9, 2023
Friday, April 7, 2023
Easter isn’t technically part of Holy Week, but it is all one celebration. Old Catholic tradition celebrated important events in octaves or eight days.
Around the World
This week is very important around the Latin world. There are famous reenactments of the passion of Christ in Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines and Spain.
In Spain, some groups walk in Holy Week processions with robes and pointed hoods. As an American, the sight of hooded figures makes me uncomfortable, but they do not represent the discredited American white supremacist group.
Faces are covered to represent regret for sins committed during the past year. The robes represent the traditional attire of the people of Nazareth. The hoods come from the Spanish Inquisition of the 1400s, when those convicted of religious crimes were forced to wear conical hoods. Different colored robes represent different religious groups.
The tradition may have started in Seville, Spain. Arturo Schomburg, founder of New York’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, said the tradition may actually have originated in the first Black brotherhood in Seville, Spain when the city had a large African Diaspora population. Affectionately called “Los Negritos, the brotherhood is one of the oldest in Europe (1393) and the oldest surviving brotherhood in Spain. It was founded as a community support group for members of the African Diaspora who found themselves on the streets.
We all see the world through our particular cultural lens, and this is a good example. Things can have one meaning in one culture, and an entirely different meaning in another.
Christian Easter traditions derive from Jewish Passover traditions. Many northern cultures celebrate spring in their own way at this time. In whatever way makes sense to you, may you and your family have a blessed Holy Week.