2011-04-20

Semana Santa – Easter traditions in Argentina

Written by Karina Krichau
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For the last two weeks, I have been walking around looking at all these amazing, colourful eggs in the shop windows. I have never seen so many chocolate eggs before in my life! The bakeries and supermarkets are stuffed with them, one egg bigger than the other, and it made me wonder what Easter means to the Argentineans and how they celebrate it. Eating a lot of chocolate eggs must be one of them for sure... but what else? So because of these unanswered questions in my head, I did a bit of research about the traditions and celebrations of Easter in Argentina, and this is what I found.

In Argentina, Semana Santa (Holy Week) is one —if not the most— significant festivities, because about 85 % of the population follow Roman Catholicism as their religion and celebrates all the Christian festivals. But for many people Semana Santa is also a good excuse to spend time with the family or to go on a small holiday.  In general this week is full of traditions and celebrations whether you’re religious or not. In many South American countries there are parades going on each day during Semana Santa. In Argentina they celebrate Carnival, where people gather in the streets to dance together and sing folksongs (as they do in many other occasions as well). When the celebration comes to a close, they burry a rag doll representing the spirit of Carnival as a symbol of the end.

Between the different Easter traditions in Argentina the ones from the northern part stands a bit out from the rest. This is mostly in the regions of Salta and Tucumán where you’ll find most Spanish traditions. In Salta, for example, they commemorate Jesus with an intense Via Crucis, that is, the depiction of the final hours of Jesus, torchlight processions, blessings and special masses.

The Via Crucis is also what makes the city of Tandil famous. It ends at Monte Calvario, a small hillock topped by a giant cross to the east of the town centre. In this city, thousands of the faithful can relive and recreate the passion of the Christ along the Via Crucis, with its fourteen stations. Besides the religious part of Semana Santa it would seem to be one of the favourite occasions for families and friends as they gather to celebrate Easter feast delicacies. Once the Easter meal is done, people give “huevos de Pascua” (chocolate eggs) to one another. This could perhaps be one of the days/weeks where the Argentinean people eat most chocolate when you think about all the eggs in the supermarkets.

For me, this part is also what I think Easter is about. Spending time with my family, having a fantastic feast and afterwards go on a chocolate egg hunt with my nieces and nephews, eating all the chocolate eggs we can. But why do we do this? It turns out that the three days celebration of Easter is called ‘The Triduum'. This is one big celebration, remembering the last supper, the crucifixion and the death of Jesus, and the Resurrection to new life. Easter marks the end of “Lent” —a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance—. During the last week of Lent (Semana Santa, in Argentina) we have Palm Sunday, which is one week before Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday is the day where Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem. Good Friday is five days after Palm Sunday and the sad day for the Christian believers. This is the day where they commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Easter Sunday is a day for rejoicing. It’s the day where they celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

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