MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has its own share of customs and traditions during Holy Week that may appear a little strange to other countries.
During this time, Filipinos hold religious processions and festivals, observe silence in their homes, or engage in rites that many would consider extreme – such as whipping themselves or allowing themselves to be nailed to the cross, a reenactment of Christ’s suffering.
But how do other countries observe one of the most important Catholic events?
Many tourists visit Guatamela during Holy Week because of their tradition of staging religious-themed parades. During this time, huge floats with the image of the cross and the statue of the Virgin Mary are paraded around cities and villages to show the faithful’s devotion and penance.
But the best part of their Holy Week tradition is laying out the “Alfombras de acerrin” or carpets of sawdust.
These are ornate carpets made out of colored sawdust, flowers and pine needles which can extend up to a kilometer, and can be seen along village streets throughout the week.
Once the carpets are completed and laid out, the procession would begin. Penitents would carry figures of Jesus and Mary, while women dressed in black and musicians join in with religious hymns.
The Holy Week tradition in Spain is similar to the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila. Like in the Philippines, they also have processions with up to 2,000 members of brotherhoods participating in the solemn religious tradition.
Some members carry candles, rods or banners, depending on their seniority in the group. The costaleros, who are responsible for carrying the floats with religious statues and figures, are accompanied in the procession by the nazarenos who wear tunics, hoods and masks. The long hours of the procession are punctuated with the slow rhythmic beating of drums, until the float enters the church.
For Colombians, Holy Week is the most important celebration of the year, a time for them to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice.
During Holy Week, cities in Colombia are quiet because people use the long vacation to visit relatives in the province or just go out of town to relax.
In Mompox, a tourism hotspot in the northern part of the country, women wear their finest clothes and jewelry and walk through the streets to show their grief and mourning of Christ’s suffering, while in the southern part of the country, native Colombians celebrate Holy Week by serving their best dishes.
For the faithful, Easter Sunday is the most important day of the week because of the resurrection.
In Mexico, several cities and villages are best-known for their practices during Holy Week: Ixtapalapa, Patzcuaro, San Cristobal de las Casas, and Taxco.
During this time, images of saints are displayed in many cities, and altars are decorated at home and in the streets. The Catholic faithful also reenact scenes from the Passion of the Christ, from the last supper to the crucifixion.
In some places, they burn cardboard effigies of Judas on Holy Saturday because of his betrayal of Jesus.
Also popular throughout the whole country is the custom of breaking the cascarones, or colored egg shells filled with confetti.
Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival, usually held over 5 days before the start of Lent, is one of the world’s largest parties and considered one of the biggest and most popular celebrations.
Twirling dancers, drummers, and colorful floats are the highlights of the festivities, with tens of thousands – locals and tourists alike – joining in.
New Mexico, United States
On Holy Thursday, a group of teenagers reenact the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuario de Chimayo Church, which sits on a source of dirt which is believed to have healing powers.
In Ranchos de Taos and Talpa, Good Friday is observed with a long walk beginning from the San Francisco de Asis church in Ranchos. Four men carrying a large cross lead the procession through various fields, front yards, and moradas or unsanctified chapels.
These moradas are the place of worship for a private lay group of Catholic men called the Hermanos. During Holy Week, the Hermanos are accompanied by a group of black-clad women, representing Veronica in the Bible.
Easter in Denmark marks the end of winter and is usually regarded as a holiday, while the Christian Church observes it as a commemoration of Christ’s death and resurrection. During this time, homes and shops are decorated in traditional Easter decorations, with the egg as a main symbol.
There is also a unique custom of sending “teaser letters,” where anonymous letters signed with a number of dots corresponding to the number of letters in the sender’s name, are sent out in the weeks before Easter.
If the recipient guesses who sent the letter, they can redeem a chocolate Easter egg. The letter are usually accompanied by a snowdrop. – Alanis Banzon/Rappler.com
Alanis Banzon is a Rappler intern