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Best time to go to Guatemala

Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Antigua 2023

Deemed world's greatest Easter Week Festival, local celebrations amaze with fervent and colorful ceremonies

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The Holy Week (Semana Santa) is simply amazing in Guatemala, and particularly in Antigua. From Palm Sunday on you can see sorrowful processions commemorating the death of Jesus and smell the sorrow in musky odors of flowers and incense. Tremendous floats topped by crucified Jesus weighing literal tons are hoisted by hundreds of purple-hooded devotees and carried along the streets ornated with colorful hand-made "alfombras." These unique carpets are made by the citizens months before the celebration itself on a layer of sand above the cobblestone and covered with multicolored sawdust, typical Guatemalan decorations, and also pine needles, flowers, and other plants. Alfombras are created as a token of sacrifice, and even though the process of creation is quite laborious and time-consuming, the carpets are destroyed right after the ceremonies.

The main element of each procession is a large float dedicated to a scene from the Passions of Christ. Heavy wooden floats are carried through the streets during the whole day despite the fact that they weight a ton or more. The biggest floats require 80 people to carry them, who change every 15 minutes. Overall more than 2000 carriers take part in some processions. There are many volunteers, since it is considered an honor to do that job.

Women also engage in the ceremonies and carry floats with the Virgin Mary—most while wearing high heels! A week of sorrowful ceremonies is crowned with fireworks and other merriments held on Easter Sunday. The Guatemalan Easter celebration is considered the largest one found in the world.

However, Christianity was introduced to the country only in the 16th century with the arrival of the Spanish missi​onaries. Today local religion represents a fusion of traditional indigenous and Christian beliefs. Catholic Easter falls on one of the Sunday between March 22 and April 25, usually within seven days after the full moon.

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