Easter in Peru: Ayacucho’s Semana Santa

Easter in Peru

Easter Week, or Semana Santa as it is known in Latin America, is one of the most anticipated and celebrated times of the entire year.  Throughout Peru, a variety of captivating events, processions, and celebrations mark the start of Holy Week. Visitors spending Easter in Peru can expect opportunities to see colorful local festivities played out.

Traditional Festivities – Easter In Peru

Perhaps the most famous of all Easter celebrations takes place in Ayacucho, Peru.  Attracting thousands of visitors from all over, Semana Santa in Ayacucho has long been considered Peru’s most spectacular religious festival, transforming this otherwise small Andean city into the host of a beautiful and intense ten-day celebration.

Beginning on the Friday before Palm Sunday, the events commence with a procession honoring “Our Lady of Sorrows” during which visitors should watch out for customary pebbles launched from slingshots meant to share the “sorrows” of the Virgin.  The following Sunday celebrates the arrival of Jesus to Jerusalem, recreating this scene with a statue of Christ arriving to the city’s main plaza on a mule greeted by thousands of devout Christians waving blessed palm leaves (hence the name “Palm Sunday”) before eventually concluding at the Cathedral.

Each day that follows features its own colorful procession or religious event giving participants a chance to demonstrate their devotion.  One of the most significant of these occurs on Holy Wednesday in the Plaza de Armas, a symbolic reenactment of the meeting between Jesus and the Virgin Mary.  Images of the two are carried on thrones with candles through the streets as onlookers, many emotionally moved, watch carefully in an expression of their faith.  Good Friday, a day of mourning for Christ’s death, during which all the city’s lights are turned off and the streets are illuminated by a beautifully solemn candlelight procession.
Following the solemn bereavement of the previous evening, Saturday’s festivities take on an entirely different tone. Huge crowds visit food and craft markets, folk dancing and concerts bring music to the streets, and drinking and partying continue late into the night.  The week’s religious ceremonies culminate at dawn on Sunday with a huge, joyous fireworks display illuminating the sky and celebrating Easter in Peru and the resurrection of Jesus.

Festivals in Peru – Free Calendar

Throughout the year, incredible festivals such as these take place throughout Peru, some in more popular tourist locations and others in small towns just off the beaten path.  To learn more about these festivals and to learn how you can integrate them into your trip to Peru, check out our Festival Calendar and contact an Aracari Consultant for more information on how to take in the best of local festivals if you aer thinking of spending Easter in Peru.

*Photo credit: El Comercio

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