As Holy Week 2021 approaches, churches and families around the world begin to celebrate the arrival of spring and some of the most sacred and somber holidays in the Christan religion. Understanding Holy Week gives a glimpse into the deep spiritual and cultural beliefs held by Christians in different countries, and getting to experience Holy Week in Mexico will inspire you with the hope of new life and the joy of the local culture.
Holy Week is an ancient Christian celebration based on the last week of Jesus Christ’s life before his crucifixion. The true definition of Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday—the day of Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem—and concludes with the Easter celebration. Scholars have studied what likely occurred on each day of this week, and within it, the most common celebrations are Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
To determine when Holy Week happens, Christians look at the Jewish calendar and base it on the day of Passover since the Biblical gospels align the last week of Jesus’s life with Passover, a traditional holiday that he and his disciples celebrated before his death. Because the Jewish calendar and Passover don’t exactly coordinate to a single date on the modern calendar, the dates of Holy Week are always a little different, sometimes falling in March and sometimes in April.
Most Holy Week traditions reflect and reenact the final days of Jesus’s life before his crucifixion. On Palm Sunday in churches around the world, palm branches are used as decorations and are waved during services. On Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, Christians reflect on the Last Supper and the crucifixion. During the Last Supper, Jesus began the rituals of foot washing and communion, which are both common Holy Week traditions, and these days are usually somber times for reflection on sin and death. However, the week concludes with Easter and the joyous celebration of Jesus’s resurrection. The Holy Week traditions for Easter reflect the idea of new life, and Easter egg hunts and giving baskets with gifts are some of the most popular celebrations for kids.
Because a large majority of the population is Catholic, Holy Week in Mexico is a very religious time when churches are full of worshippers. One of the unique traditions for Holy Week in Mexico is a reenactment of Christ’s crucifixion, with actors forming a procession through town to represent the Via Dolorosa, or the stations of the cross. In some areas of Mexico, it’s also tradition to burn an effigy of Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. In addition to these religious traditions, it’s also the time for spring break when schools and businesses close down, giving families the chance to go on vacation or spend time celebrating together.
As Holy Week 2021 approaches, it’s a time when people of all faiths can celebrate the coming of spring with its reminders of new life. From the first leaves beginning to bud to new calves and lambs on farms, it’s a time of year filled with hope, and the Christian celebrations for Holy Week reflect these sentiments.