How Mexico celebrates Easter
Before your all inclusive vacation with Barceló Hotel Group this spring, learn about the rich culture and events that take place during Easter in Mexico.
Is Easter in Mexico the best Easter? Maybe! As a largely Roman Catholic nation, Mexico celebrates Easter (also known as Domingo de Gloria — “Sunday of Glory”) with unparalleled passion and pageantry. Before your all inclusive vacation with Barceló Hotel Group this spring, learn about the rich culture and events that take place during Easter in Mexico.
First of all, Easter in Mexico isn’t celebrated with just a single day. It’s a multi-week extravaganza. Things traditionally get started with Carnival, the festival that leads up to Lent, the 40-day religious observance representing the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, spanning from Ash Wednesday to Easter.
Since many people give up things for Lent, Carnival is all about living it up: dancing, eating and partying. Cozumel (home of the all inclusive Occidental Cozumel and Allegro Cozumel) hosts one of Mexico’s largest Carnivals, from late February to early March. If you’re lucky enough to be in Cozumel during Carnival, you’ll enjoy lively street festivals, incredibly colorful costumes and welcoming parades along the island’s oceanfront. Be ready to stay up late — and have a lot of fun.
The first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, is the Christian holiday reserved for prayer, fasting and repentance. A solemn occasion, Ash Wednesday in Mexico sees believers going to church, where priests draw the sign of the cross in ashes on their foreheads. As a sign of repentance, Mexicans leave the ash untouched all-day long.
As with other parts of the world, the Mexican Easter festivities really get going with Semana Santa (Holy Week). The first major event is Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos), the holiday held exactly one week before Easter Sunday, commemorating Jesus’ famed entry into Jerusalem on a donkey.
On Palm Sunday, churches are decorated with – what else? – thousands of lush palm leaves for special masses. Churchgoers have their own palm leaves as well, waving them to and fro as they make their way into their chosen house of worship, singing songs of praise, as people in Jerusalem did as Jesus processed through the city. Some Mexican towns even re-create this dazzling procession in their own streets. An amazing sight! Often, local artisans weave the palm leaves into intricate patterns of all shapes and sizes.
Maundy Thursday (Jueves Santo), Good Friday (Viernes Santo) & Holy Saturday (Sábado Santo)
Semana Santa continues with Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday (Jueves Santo). This holy day is celebrated in honor of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. Churches in Mexico hold special masses on Maundy Thursday, and some even host elaborate reenactments of the Last Supper (often based on Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic painting). The following day is Good Friday (Viernes Santo), commemorating the day of Christ’s crucifixion.
The streets of Mexican towns are often closed on Good Friday for the Passion Play, a powerful re-creation of the “Ways of the Cross,” showing Jesus in his crown of thorns carrying the cross. This event is a solemn occasion; the devout witness it with silence and prayer. Holy Saturday (Sábado Santo) is dedicated to the time in between Christ’s death and resurrection. In some parts of Mexico, believers burn effigies of Judas on Sábado Santo, a symbol of the disciple who famously betrayed Jesus.
The second half of Easter begins with the joyous celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Church bells ring out and masses are filled with happy songs and hymns. After the ceremony, locals spill out into the streets in a festive mood, greeting each other and celebrating for the rest of the day, often enjoying antojitos (street food).
One thing to note: Easter in Mexico is generally not celebrated with Easter Bunnies and Easter Egg hunts. That’s more of a tradition in the U.S. and Canada. But kids (and adults with a sweet tooth) will often celebrate the holiday with ice cream, bought from vendors who line the streets of most Mexican towns.
Semana de Pascua
Easter Sunday may be over, but the celebration continues with Semana de Pascua. After the sometimes-somber moods of the previous week, Semana de Pascua is a livelier time, as Mexicans look forward to spring (symbolized by Christ’s resurrection). Many schools and businesses close down for the week, and families head to the beach for a little rest and relaxation.
Traditional Mexican Easter Food
Let’s eat! Like most Mexican holidays, feasting is a big part of Easter celebrations. Since Roman Catholic tradition discourages the eating of red meat during Lent, seafood (especially shrimp) is particularly popular during this time. It’s often served as part of an empanada. For an authentic Easter dinner, try nopal, a delicious type of cactus that’s popular during this time of year. It’s served in empanadas, tacos, salads and more, often with delicious seasonings added.
Easter in Mexico is a fascinating time to visit – start making your plans now!