This week people all around the world will be celebrating the Easter holidays, and Peru is no exception. Since the majority of the population is of Christian faith, it is no surprise that Easter, or Pascua in Spanish, is celebrated with a lot of gusto. Celebrations go between seven and ten days, depending on which city you are in.
Semana Santa, The Holy Week
The week prior to Easter Sunday is a time of festivity and celebration to remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is called the “Semana Santa” or “The Holy” or “Easter” Week. It ends with a massive firework display and celebration at dawn on Easter Sunday.
First, we start with Domingo de Ramos, or Palm Sunday. This is the final Sunday before Easter and the beginning of the Holy Week. This day is to commemorate Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. The day is celebrated by many people going to mass with a cross made of palm leaves, and afterwards blessing the doors around town as a sign of protection.
Then on Thursday is Jueves Santo, or Maundy Thursday. The church priests wash the feet of the twelve elders, the maundy, commemorating the time Jesus washed the feet of the twelve apostles. This is a day to remember the Last Supper and people in Peru gather together for a feast of twelve local and traditional dishes in honor of Jesus’ last meal. It is also said that if you visit seven churches on this day, you can make a wish. Find out more about the foods to try during this holiday and what Peruvians eat for easter!
The following day is Viernes Santo, or Good Friday. This day is much quieter in celebration as many people are mourning the death of Christ. However, there are still processions in many cities throughout the country.
Saturday is Sábado de Gloria, or the Holy Saturday where people commemorate the burial of Christ in his tomb. Many churches also hold a candlelight vigil on this night to mourn the death of Jesus.
Easter Sunday, or Domingo de Resurrección, is the biggest day of celebration beginning with fireworks displays, most of them beginning at dawn, and many parties and festivities happening all over the country. Food, dancing, and parades take place all across the country to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
Easter celebrations in major cities
Along with the festivities above, some cities in Peru celebrate the Holy Week with extra festivities and celebrations.
The day after Palm Sunday in Cusco day is Lunes Santo, or Easter Monday. This is one of the most important days of celebration in Cusco during the Holy Week and features a procession for El Señor de los Temblores, Lord of the Earthquakes. Legend has it that on May 31, 1650, a major earthquake hit Cusco, and when a statue of the crucifixion Jesus Christ was taken out of the church, the quakes suddenly stopped. The procession starts at the Cusco Cathedral with the statue decorated in red ñucchu flower, symbolizing the blood of Christ, and winds its way to Plaza de Armas over the course of six hours.
The Easter celebrations in this central Peruvian city are considered the best in the country. The town even has a church for each year of Jesus’ life, 33 in total. The Friday before Palm Sunday, celebrations begin with a play about when Christ met his mother. Then on Palm Sunday, mules and palms can be seen wandering around the city in celebration.
On Holy Saturday in Ayacucho, the city is brimming with open-air markets featuring music, food, and crafts for the whole city to participate in. Day celebrations turn into an all-night party that leads into the Easter Sunday celebrations filled with music, dancing, and fireworks.
While many of the traditions in Arequipa remain the same as the rest of Peru, on Easter Sunday the people of this colonial city burn an effigy of Judas, symbolizing how he betrayed Jesus and how he will be punished. This takes place in the central square and after the burning, fireworks light up the sky in celebration.
While some of the celebrations are similar to other countries, Peru has a number of beautiful and unique traditions that make it an incredible place to visit during this holy time. And from everyone at Enigma peru, have a wonderful Easter!