Mexicans celebrate Easter with a three-week series of festivities and commemorations. Easter is as important in Mexican culture as is Christmas and the calendar of observances and activities rivals any other society in the Christian world.
The Intertops casino bonus takes you on a tour of a Mexican Easter celebration.
Easter festivities kick off in Mexico with Carnival, a festive extravaganza of fun, food, drink, and partying. There are carnivals of various sizes in cities and towns throughout Mexico but the biggest carnivals take place in the port cities of Mazatlan and Veracruz.
Carnivals are held during the week before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and start off with the Quema del Mal Humor, the “Burning of Bad Mood” when the effigy of an unpopular figure is burned to symbolizes getting rid of everyday worries and concerns. Each Carnival crowns its Carnival King and Queen.
Throughout Carnival week there are parades, concerts, and other live entertainment, fireworks, dances, carnival rides and games. Carnival Week winds down on Tuesday with the Martes de Carnaval when a “Juan Carnival” effigy is burned to mark the end of the celebrations.
Some of the smaller Carnivals incorporate indigenous celebrations that were part of Mexico’s culture before the Spanish and Catholicism arrived in the 1500s.
From the Carnival on through Holy Week, Easter and Pascua, there are special foods sold on the street and prepared in people’s homes to symbolize the Easter holiday. Some of the most popular foods include:
- Esquites – Mexican street corn, eaten out of little cups or rolled in tortillas with or without dips. The popular sauce is made with parmesan cheese, Gran Luchito, lime juice, coriander, and chipotle mayo.
- Sopes – discs made out of thick pieces of masa and pinched on the edges, lightly fried and topped with toppings such as chipotle, fried chorizo, refried beans, and/or feta cheese.
- Gorditas – masa pockets willed with savory fillings such as potatoes, chorizo, chicken mole, carnitas, shredded beef, cheese, beans, etc.
- Aguas Frescas – blended fruit drinks, typically cucumber, pineapple, watermelon, mango, peach, lemon, and cantaloupe.
Cuaresma/Lent marks the 40 days that is said to mirror the 40 days that Jesus spent wandering in the desert. It’s a time of semi-mourning when devout Catholics don’t eat meat. There are special days during Cuaresma.
The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday which is marked by prayer, fasting, and requests for repentance. The faithful go to church where the priest draws the sign of the cross in ashes on their foreheads. In Mexico, the ash is left untouched.
The fourth Friday of Lent is Dia Samaritana/Samaritan Day when people give out free food and traditional drinks such as Jamaica, tamarindo, and horchata. Viernes de Dolores, the Friday of Sorrows, is observed on the sixth Friday of Lent and is commemorated by building alters decorated with chia pets, flowers, seedlings, and straw in homes, markets, churches, and other public areas. The alters are built to remember the pain of the Virgin Mary.
The last Sunday before Easter is Domingo de Ramos/Palm Sunday. Churches are decorated with palm leaves and parishioners wave palm leaves in their seats to commemorate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey. Church services are marked by much singing.
Semana Santa/Holy Week
Throughout Semana Santa/Holy Week, people reenact the Passion including Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, his crucifixion, and his resurrection. Special masses are held on Jueves Santa/Maundy Thursday), Viernes Santo/Good Friday, and Sabado Santo/Holy Saturday. Some churches host re-enactments of the Last Supper and burn effigies of Judas who is believed to have betrayed Jesus to the Romans.
In some communities, there’s a tradition of visiting 12 churches in 12 days during Semana Santa.
Domingo de Pascua/Easter Sunday
Domingo de Pascua/Easter Sunday is a solemn day throughout Mexico. Almost all places of business and entertainment are closed and the churches are filled for the special Masses. After mass, the people come out into the streets in a festive mood and the rest of the day is a celebration.
Many people eat antojitos, different types of finger foods, either while celebrating in the street or with their families later on as part of the family feast.
In some churches and within some families, the Passion of the Christ is re-enacted with different members of the audience playing various parts including the roles of Jesus, the Romans, the Jews, the Pharisees, Mary, and others.
On Palm Sunday the Passion of the Christ rendition in the southern Mexico City neighborhood of Iztapalapa is the best known – there “Jesus” hauls a cross up the Cerro de la Estrella where he is “crucified.”
Self-flagellation is also practiced in certain communities on Easter. In Taxco, Guerrero, men, and women carry weighty crosses and thorny haybales in a procession and even whip themselves. Other areas like San Miguel de Allende, Queretaro, and San Cristobal de las Casas have silent processions where devotees walk in silence, reflecting on the Easter story.
Semana de Pascua
The intensity of Cuaresma, Semana Santa, and Domingo de Pascua means that many people are ready for a break after Easter ends. The Semana de Pascua is a recognized week that follows Easter when people throughout Mexico schedule their vacations as unforgettable trips.