Created on: April 10, 2012
Holy Week is just that, the holiest week in the Christian religion. It begins on Palm Sunday and ends with Easter. It follows Jesus Christ through his last week of human life. Many of the traditions are hundreds of years old and are followed by millions of people.
In Spain where Holy Week is called Semana Santa, it is traditional in many towns to have a procession every evening. These are not joyful celebrations, there is a general atmosphere of penitence and many of the religious fraternities take part in these processions. Statues are carried through the streets and it is an honor to be one of the bearers of the platforms on which the statues ride. This all leads up to the joyous celebration of Easter Sunday.
In the Philippines, the observance of Holy Week begins with worshipers bringing palaspas (palm fronds) to church to be blessed on Palm Sunday. Many of the faithful refrain from eating meat during Holy Week and in some towns TV and radio stations go off the air. On Holy or Maundy Thursday, as they do in many other countries where the religion is primarily Catholicism, a part of the tradition at the Mass is to wash the feet of people who represent the apostles. It has been a long held tradition to take part in self-flagellation and it is not uncommon to see people whipping their own backs.
In Sweden there is a Holy Week Tradition that is not based on Christianity at all but rather a much older pagan tradition. On Maundy Thursday, little girls dress up in colorful scarfs and aprons, carry a broomstick, paint their cheeks red with freckles and visit their neighbors to ask for candy. They are called Easter hags or witches.
In Trinidad, on Good Friday, residents make a figure of rags who is supposed to be Judas. The tradition is called Bobolee which means stupid person or idiot. The figure is punished by being beaten for betraying Jesus. When there are public figures that are unpopular, the figure has been known to resemble them. It allows the residents to take out a lot of their frustration while maintaining a local tradition.
In Jerusalem, on Holy Saturday, thousands of people march through the streets of the city in anticipation of the resurrection that will take place on Easter Sunday. In this hundreds of years old tradition, Palestinian guards lead the way and pound their staffs on the ground. Following them are Franciscan monks in their brown habits, priests in their black garb and then the faithful. They march to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where they join in prayer. In this march, it is the Muslims who lead the way followed by the Christians.
In Rome, it is traditional for the pope to lead the Way of the Cross, which in recent times has been held in the Coliseum.
There are many other local traditions that are part of Holy Week observations. Some traditions are universal to a particular religion and others are followed by only a small group in one area. All of them culminate in the celebration of Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Christ.
Learn more about this author, Isabelle Esteves.
Click here to send this author comments or questions.
Below are the top articles rated and ranked by Helium members on:
Holy Week traditions from around the world
Cast your vote!
Click for your side.