La Semana Santa - Holy Week in Spanish-Influenced Countries – EpicPew

La Semana Santa – Holy Week in Spanish-Influenced Countries

Holy Week is arguably the most celebrated week of the year among Catholics. We celebrate Palm Sunday with the blessing of palms and processions into churches. On Maundy Thursday, we see reenactments of the Last Supper performed. On Good Friday, dramatizations of the Stations of the Cross and crucifixion of Christ are the norm.

Read more: 10 Facts You May Not Know About Holy Thursday

With the increasing secularization of once traditionally Catholic countries, celebrations seem to be dying off. However, it is not so in Spanish-influences countries. In three particular countries – Mexico, the Philippines, and Spain – Holy Weeks are as beautiful and elaborate as ever. Here are some examples of how Holy Week is celebrated in these countries:



During Semana Santa, all schools and many businesses are closed. The largest recreation of the Via Crucis takes place in Iztapalapa where an estimated million people travel into town to witness it. In smaller towns, effigies of Judas Iscariot are publicly burned or blown up in fireworks on Saturday night.

Another popular tradition more prevalent in smaller towns is the visitation of twelve churches (one for each apostle) in a single day. The towns and cities best known for their elaborate Holy Week celebrations include San Cristobal de las Casas (Chiapas), Oaxaca (Oaxaca), Pátzcuaro (Michoacán), and Taxco (Guerrero).



Many Filipinos take Semana Santa off from work. Both radio and television stations air religious programming instead of their regular programs. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and a procession called latag (laying of cloth). Priests to walk on clothing laid before him as he makes his way into the church.

Holy Thursday and Good Friday are celebrated as national holidays. On Good Friday, the Seven Last Words of Jesus are recited both at churches and homes. Processions vary in size and intensity throughout the country’s regions. Bulacan’s Lenten procession is arguably the longest with 111 floats depicting the passion and death of Christ.



Spaniards celebrate Semana Santa with varying traditions unique to their regions. Tronos (“thrones”) carrying a statue of Christ and of his grieving mother are carried by cofradias (“brotherhoods”). Some are more elaborate than others, with several men volunteering to carry them. In the Andalusian region, they are so heavy and the procession lasts for so long that those carrying them experience physical pain akin to that of Christ carrying the cross.

Spanish-actor Antonio Banderas is known to participate in his hometown’s procession of La Virgen de las Lagrimas y Favores annually. Since many of the floats are very old, the processions are put off when it rains to avoid doing any damage.

While each country fights to retain their Catholic identity through political and secular struggles, Holy Week still remains one of the biggest and most celebrated weeks of the year.

What are some of your favorite Holy Week traditions not mentioned here?