Mar 27 2013

Colorful celebrations mark Holy Week in Guatemala

In the Latin American projects we serve, Holy Week is a time for family, reflection, cultural traditions and ceremonies remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Luis Cocon, CFCA communications liaison for Guatemala, sends us pictures and an account of Holy Week as it’s happening right now in Guatemala.

Please note: Our Kansas City office will be closed March 28 and 29 for Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

A mystical feeling is in the air as Holy Week processions begin in the Guatemalan city of Antigua, set against a backdrop of colonial architecture, cobblestone streets and volcanoes.

Holy Week parades in Antigua, Guatemala

Decorations and elaborate handicrafts adorn wooden platforms on which religious images are carried.

Holy Week procession symbols in Guatemala

Romans in a Holy Week parade in Guatemala

The images and paintings that accompany them are of great historical value and represent Christ in many stages of his life.

Images of Christ in Holy Week parades in Guatemala

The sweet scent of white incense follows the processions, bringing a greater sense of mysticism as carved images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary pass through the crowds.

Virgin Mary image in a Holy Week parade in Guatemala

The processions, followed by musicians playing their instruments and hundreds of pilgrims, can go on for eight to 10 blocks and are generally well attended, despite the scorching sun.

Holy Week procession in Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua generates an estimated $87 million in economic activity during Holy Week and hosts approximately 450,000 visitors in eight days, according to Prensa Libre, a Guatemalan newspaper. This helps support local restaurants, hotels, shops and street vendors.

The processions are welcomed by attendees who have created beautiful carpets made of colored sawdust, flowers and fruits.

Carpets for Holy Week parades in Guatemala

Cristofer, a 15-year-old sponsored through CFCA, has participated in processions since he was 3.

“Processions are a way to express our faith,” he said. “I feel honored to carry the image of Jesus. This is a small penance that gives much satisfaction to my soul.”

CFCA family celebrates Holy Week in Guatemala

Cristofer, left, is sponsored through CFCA and has taken part in Holy Week processions since he was 3. To his right are his mother, Vilma, and her nephew, Carlos.

Throughout Lent, Cristofer said, his family wears purple to remember that Jesus is still with them, and on Good Friday they wear black to mourn his death.

Traditionally, those who celebrate Holy Week in Guatemala eat meals that include fish and homemade bread.

CFCA family in Guatemala eating fish and bread during Holy Week

Vilma, center, prepares a meal of fish and bread for her family during Holy Week. Her son, Cristofer, right, is sponsored through CFCA. Carlos, left, is Vilma’s nephew.

“My mother showed me this tradition since I was a little girl,” said Vilma, Cristofer’s mother. “We start saving money several months in advance so that we can have fish and bread for these days.

“We buy all of the ingredients (eggs, flour, sugar and yeast), pay to use an oven and bake it ourselves. We eat fish and bread because it is a way to remember the miracles of Jesus and how he multiplied fish and bread to feed the crowds.”

For Vilma, Holy Week is a time for reflection and meditation.

“This is a time that gives us the chance to remember to love each other, love our neighbor, to be good humans and ask forgiveness,” she said.

Cristofer also had a special message for the CFCA community, including his sponsor.

“For the entire CFCA community I wish you a blessed Holy Week. … For our sponsors, your love for us represents the love of Jesus. I thank you, and I wish much peace for you and your family.”

Happy Easter from all of us at CFCA!

3 thoughts on “Colorful celebrations mark Holy Week in Guatemala”

  1. My adult daughter has experienced witnessing the Holy Week traditions in Antigua twice since being adopted. She says it is once in a life time experience. We hope to be in Antiqua next year for Holy Week. She wants her children to experience the religious atmosphere that surrounds the beauty of this ceremony.

  2. Thank you for sharing the lovely Holy Week traditions from Guatemala. I sponsor a little one named, Vilma, from Lake Atitlan there. In North America, it seems that most people are unaware of the Solemnity of Holy Week. It makes me sad for us. God Bless this time of penance and remembrance and our ultimate JOY!!! <3

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