Holy Week

The office here has the feel of the day before Christmas back home. Probably half the staff is on vacation, and few families come in. In Guatemala, and Antigua especially, Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is at least on par with Christmas as a special time. All of Lent is celebrated, but from Wednesday through Sunday, Antigua is wholly focused on Easter celebrations. Every Catholic church in the area organizes processions which can last all day, as massive wooden floats wind their way through the city carried on the shoulders of the faithful. Families and neighbors design beautiful, highly elaborate “carpets” of colored sawdust, flowers, and fruit for the processions to pass over.

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Here’s one example, by no means the best. Many are true works of art. During the next few days, the streets will be jammed with people from all over who come to see the carpets and processions. Hotels are booked months in advance.

Some are simply tourists who have heard that Antigua is the place to be during Holy Week, drawn to the spectacle and pageant. For many it’s a deeply spiritual time in which to renew their faith. On a more practical level, its a time in which one hopes to not have to go anywhere in a car, because the streets leading in, out, and through Antigua become impassible.

For me, the carpets are the highlight. As I said, some are true works of art. But one of the things I most like about the carpets is just the making of them. Walking through the streets at night before a major procession, you can see families and neighbors working together to create something beautiful, if fleeting. It’s festive, and reminds me of holidays back home, with young kids running around playing, the normal rules suspended, as the adults take on almost ritualistic roles of preparation.

Easter is about the promise of rebirth, the renewal of hope. As I look around, I think we could use some of that.

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