The attached image of Christ’s crucifixion is from one of the frescoes at the Convento de San Bernardino de Siena in Valladolid, one of the various frescoes which are being restored there. The convent is open to visitors Monday-Saturday 9 am – 4 pm with a cost of 30 pesos. This is one of the most important Franciscan edifices in the New World.
Easter is one of the most important Christian holidays. It commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after he was crucified. In Mexico, where 90% of the population is baptized Catholic, although many don’t actually practice, Easter is taken very seriously – and literally – with colorful, passionate processions reenacting the Passion of Jesus Christ’s last days on earth.
The week leading up to Easter, known in English as Holy Week, is called “Semana Santa” in Latin American countries and is celebrated with processions, masses and other events that mark Jesus Christ’s triumphant return to Jerusalem, his trial, his walk carrying the cross, and his crucifixion.
In Mérida and in many villages, people recreate the “Vía Cruces”, complete with actors and costumes of those ancient times. They also acknowledge the 14 stations, the places where Jesus fell as he bore his burden. It can be quite striking to see a mass of people dressed in the clothing of Jesus’ time, walking behind an actor playing Jesus as he struggles doubled over from the weight of an enormous cross, with a crown of thorns on his head. Roman soldiers stand by and the Apostles are there as well. The actors are then hung on the crosses. Townspeople walk in the procession too, playing the role of the penitents who marched behind Jesus. It is moving to watch.
“Domingo de Ramos”, Palm Sunday, starts off Semana Santa, and the week builds toward Holy Thursday, Good Friday and of course, Easter Sunday, known as “Domingo de Resurrección”, Resurrection Sunday. On Palm Sunday everyone goes to mass in the morning for the blessing of the palm leaves; when dry, the leaves are made into crosses that people use as amulets, adorning their cars and homes.
On Holy Thursday and Good Friday, the activities become more elaborate. On Holy Thursday the “washing of the feet” ceremony is celebrated. During mass, the highest-ranking priest washes the feet of twelve common people in the representation of the 12 apostles.
On Good Friday, the Passion plays are enacted. The best places to view these passion plays are in Mérida at the Cathedral and in Santiago neighborhood, and on the Convent Route in Acancéh and Maní. Activities start mid-morning and culminate at 3 pm when Christ supposedly died.
Palm Sunday –March 25, 2018
Holy Thursday – March 29, 2018
Good Friday –March 30, 2018
Holy Saturday –March 31, 2018
Resurrection Day / Easter Sunday – April 1, 2018
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