Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Celebrations in the heart of Mexico....

The end of the Lent period if finally here and with it come a series of events that are strictly adhered to since the XVI Century and which we inherited (or got imposed) from Spain. Mexico, being a Roman Catholic country still holds many of these traditions firmly in it's grasp and year after year faithful representations of these events draw millions of the faithful (and tourists curious to see these heavy-duty expressions of faith) to all parts of Mexico (and other parts of the world too).

We've already spoken of the Mardi Gras events leading up to Lent and how this works, now with the end of the 40 day Lent period the week preceding Easter is known as the High Holy Days which begin with Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter Sunday) and which represents Christ's triumphal entrance into Jerusalem and His blessing of the palm fronds, a preparation of what is to come during Holy week is also reviewed. (no Spring break anything here folks!)

During Lent, which is a time of reflexion and sacrifice, churches do not hold any celebrations (so don't try and get married) and all statues and altars are covered in the traditional mourning color of purple. No music is played and everyone must maintain a serious and pious stance during this time in rememberance of Christ's sacrifice and death. This is the Church's prime time during the year. Fasts are held, spiritual examination should be done and this is the time when Catholics review their life within the Church and make not only amends but changes for the future as well.

The Holy Week schedule is firmly set, beginning with Monday which is the Day of the Virgins and most churches get many Virgin statues together and take them out on processions around their parishes followed by groups of women, dressed in white carrying crosses or flowers and dedicating their lives to Christ.

Tuesday is the day of the Alms in Purgatory when women now dressed in black, chained at the ankles and with hoods covering their faces, follow the procession praying for those souls in purgatory. This is a solemn and striking procession.

Wednesday is the male's turn to cover their faces, chain their legs and tie blackberry branches around their waists (ouch!) and carry up to 50 Kilo crosses during the procession, doubled over while they flagelate their bodies to atone for Christ's torture and human sin.

Thursday begins Holy Triduum days or the most important of Lent. This recreates Christ's actions on the day before he was turned in to his captors and eventual executioners. The Last Supper is among the events covered here and Churches are stripped of all images and decorations and services are at a minimum. Silence remains the rule.

Good Friday is the day of Christ's death and is a day of fasting and introspection for the faithful. Mass is forbidden on this day and a strict protocol is observed. Christ's passion is recreated and everyone venerates the cross. The solemnity and somberness of the events of this day has permitted these events to remain unchanged even through the passage of centuries. This is the holiest day of all. Services usually start at noon and last 3 hours until 3pm when it's been said was the time of Christ's death. In many cities (Mexico City, Puebla, Guadalajara, Michoacan, Nayarit to name just a few) actual crucifictions are held and the man chosen for this role, considered a great honor and earned during a year of living as Christ and practicing His example can be seen all over. Outside of Mexico City in the city of Ixtapalapa, it becomes an event with over 2,500,000 people participating and is famous for this faithful recreation of the events.

Holy Saturday is considered a day of waiting since Christ didn't resurrect until Sunday, and some pagan rituals abound, like the burning of the devil (papier mache figures are made and burned in public, sometimes hated public figures take the place of the devil in these acts). This day is dedicated to Mary Magdalene and processions are done in her honor. In some communities buckets of water used to be thrown at the procession but in these days of water rationing, this custom is outlawed. Today is the visit to the Holy Sepulchre in anticipation of Easter and services begin at sundown preparing for this since Easter is considered the Service of Light (Christ is the Light of the World), all candles and lights are extinguished and the service begins in the dark and then by lighting the way for the faithful. The faithful light candles by the Pascal light and observe the liturgy. The Old Testament is read, protocol is set for all this and the faithful follow along all by candlelight and songs are sung for the first time since Lent began. Baptisms and other services now can be done and everyone recalls their joining the church and sacraments are restarted.

Easter is a time of rejoicing and all stops are off. Music, prayer and celebrations begin joined by all in rememberance of Christ's ascencion into heaven and His sacrifice for all. This is a time of new beginnings and everyone is encouraged to begin anew and dedicate their lives to Christ and follow his example. Mourning is over and Mass celebrations are begun.

My kids wanted to get some easter eggs (Cadbury eggs and some Peep's) but none were to be found since no bunnies are present in this part of the world. No Easter Egg hunts are being held and while there are many families out and about all over town, it's Church services and fairs held at the parishes that hold their interest here. Festive music and light colors abound and traditional Easter meals are served and enjoyed by all. (Love it! but I did miss the chocolate...)

Since there are so many native indian tribes around me which are still active, I'm researching holidays that are still being celebrated which we've gotten from the Mayans, Aztecs, Toltecs, Tlaxcaltecas and other groups and have either been absorbed into religious observances or still stand as they once were. I've gotten lost of really interesting information.

Wishing everyone a Happy Easter! Hope you holidays have been great. I for one am going to get offline and go out, enjoy the 82 degree weather and sun and join in the local events and partake of the wonderful Easter dishes so I can come and share it with you later.... TTFN, talk later......

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