Mar 16

Semana Santa in Colombia: What to Do?!

The streets of Popayan
The streets of Popayan

Holy Week, otherwise known as Semana Santa, is fast approaching. With many Colombians having time off work during this period, plans to celebrate Holy Week are being made around Colombia. Holy Week celebrations in Colombia traditionally run from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday and this year it falls on the dates Sunday 1st April to Sunday 9th April.

Catholicism is the traditional and most widely practised religion within Colombia and Holy Week is the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All over Colombia, communities and individuals celebrate and recognise Holy Week in a variety of different ways and levels of intensity. The most famous of celebrations however, is a ritual that integrates numerous cities and towns, the most popular being Mompox and Popayán.

Over the rooftops in Mompox
Over the rooftops in Mompox

This ritual begins the thursday night before Palm Sunday in Mompox, northern Colombia. Those involved proceed to the Inmaculada Concepción Church, led by Nazarenos dressed in turquoise robes and throw stones and kick at doors to gain entry. A mass then takes place inside, the robes of those taking part are blessed and then all celebrants make their way on to the San Francisco Church. Further events at different churchs continue the day day, the first being a 4am mass at Santo Domingo church. On Palm Sunday several churches perform mass, including the blessing of the palms at Santa Bárbara and a large procession that remembers Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. Thursday sees the Last Supper reenacted and then on Good Friday, or Viernes Santo, crucifixion with masses and solemn rites takes place.

Inside the Salt Cathedral, Zipaquira
Inside the Salt Cathedral, Zipaquira

As well as all the religious celebrations, Holy Week is a popular time for traveling Colombia. Colombia’s Ministry of Tourism considers this week within ‘high season’ and, as well as visiting the towns already mentioned, many Colombians visit religious landmarks (such as Las Lajas Cathedral or Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira) and Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

The beautiful sunset from Taganga's coast
The beautiful sunset from Taganga’s coast

Last year I went to Taganga to celebrate the week and it was full of backpackers and locals all ready for a week of fun, so keep in mind if you’re not particularly religious, or you’re only in Colombia this week, you can still enjoy the usual amount of hedonism you’re used to. Just be warned: accommodation should be sorted well in advance.

Paul

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