Home Awesome Semana Santa, or Holy Week in Latin America and Costa Rica

Semana Santa, or Holy Week in Latin America and Costa Rica


! Felices Pascuas a todos!( Un poco tardio)

Easter was this Sunday, April 16 th, and Good Friday was the 14 th, which meant an objective to Lent and in Catholic countries like Costa Rica, the end of Semana Santa.


Cuaresma- Lent

Viernes Santo- Holy Friday

Pascua- Easter

la resurreccion- the resurrection

el enterramiento- the burial

la misa- mass

Even though I was raised Catholic and am familiar with a lot of the traditions and meanings behind the vacation in the United States, Easter in Costa Rica( or more importantly, the week leading up to Easter) was a big surprise to me.

Semana Santa, which technically starts the Sunday before Easter, is a national religious week in Costa Rica and in many other Countries of latin america. The office where I’m doing my internship closed for the entire week- which is apparently more common in the public and nonprofit sector, but less and less common for everybody else. Children still have off from school and most people have off work on Thursday and Friday.

Just how important the entire Semana Santa is in Costa Rica was a shock itself, but what surprised me the most was that Easter Sunday truly doesn’t matter much! Some Catholic I talked to couldn’t even say when Easter was( one asked me if it was around Christmastime ). While emphasis in the U.S. is put on the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, almost all of the emphasis here is put one across Good Friday, the working day of his death and burying.

Here are some traditions that I noticed during my first Semana Santa in Latin America!

1. Las procesiones [?]

Like in Spain and in many Latin American countries, Holy Week processions are a big part of celebrating and to acknowledge holiday. Costa Rica observes two big processions on Viernes Santo- one in the morning, to reenact the path that Jesus strolled to the cross, and one in the evening, to commemorate his burying. Multiple processions happen in every city- usually there will be a human garmented as Jesus, carrying a cross, as well as men and women garmented as Roman soldiers and Biblical girls. The procession I watched was in a small town, but it still drew a large mob and had a police bodyguard that diverted traffic. Men, females, and children attend the processions along with members of the Church to celebrate the demise and burial of Jesus.

2. La familia

Since Semana Santa comes with so much time off for students and workers, a lot of households use this time to be together. Depending on how religious you are, that might entail spending day focusing on God and prayer, … or just relaxing at home and watching a lot of Netflix. My host family is very devout, so for Semana Santa they went to more masses and confession services than they usually would, participated in a lot of community volunteering, and had nightly prayer conferences after dinner as a family. My host father also apparently likes to celebrate by watching movies about the saints- after a week I guess I’ve ensure every single biographical movie about a Catholic saint that exists.

My host mom also has a tradition of going to her mother’s house with her sisters for one day where they do nothing but bake bread.( Well, bake bread and gossip, according to her .) Which meant I got all the family chisme AND got to eat rolls all week.

Pancito. Is. Life.

3. La PLAYA [?]

I get the impression that, much like in the U.S. and other Western countries, every coming generation gets a little less religious. So here it’s kind of a stereotype of young people that they don’t care about the religious meaning behind Semana Santa and only use the time to party at the beach. (… Which I can’t actually argue with since I went to a beach town for the weekend !) It’s pretty much the same thing that’s said about teens during Spring Break in the states, merely more intense here because it’s, obviously, a more Catholic country.

That being said the beaches DEFINITELY fill up for Semana Santa. Travel is really popular, and also a pain, because a lot of buses shut down for Good Friday. I talked to a lot of Uber and taxi drivers who said they work through the whole week and induce bank( which is good for them but also kind of a disgrace ).


My favorite picture that sums up the weird inequality of Semana Santa.( Alberto Saiz/ AP Photo

Definitely not an experience to miss out on!

Read more: daily-spanish.tumblr.com


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