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Semana Santa

Semana Santa, or Holy Week, may be the most celebrated holiday in all of Guatemala—but no town puts on a show like Antigua. In fact, thousands of foreigners and vacationing Guatemalans are drawn to Antigua to witness the vibrant and elaborate festivities during the holiday.

Although Semana Santa officially runs from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, preparation starts weeks before the main event. Local families design and weave elaborate carpets made of flowers, pines, dyed sawdust, and leaves that will blanket the streets on Holy Friday. The carpets are influence by Mayan and colonial designs, and each one varies in shape, color, and size.

The ornamental carpets, or alfombras, are laid out on the streets on Holy Friday, just in time for a solemn procession where men and boys dressed in purple robes slowly carry giant floats with the local churches most revered items on top. The floats are so large some require up to 80 men to carry them. Around the robed men, Roman soldiers swing incense burners, creating dense clouds of smoke. Behind them, a float with the Virgin Mary is followed by women dressed in all black clothing. Even for people who are not religious, the traditions can be very moving.

Around 3a.m. on Good Friday, a band of men on horseback gallop through the streets announcing Christ's death sentence. Throughout the city in the following days, there are mock crucifixions depicting the 12 stations of the cross.

If you plan to visit Antigua during Holy Week, you will want to book your hotel or hostel well in advance. For more information on the details of Holy Week events, pick up a map or schedule at the Instituto Guatemalteco de Turismo (INGUAT) office in the central plaza.

28 Jul 2010

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