Semana Santa GUATEMALA'S HOLY WEEK
Faces - The Magazine of People, Places and Cultures for Kids|January 2021
What if Easter preparations meant dyeing sand, collecting pine needles, and staying up all night to work on an art project that you knew would be ruined the very next day? Well, welcome to Guatemala’s Semana Santa, or Holy Week.
LuAnn Kern

Semana Santa is the biggest holiday of the year in Guatemala. Festivals take place throughout Lent in more than 300 cities and villages across the country, but one of the most famous celebrations is held the week before Easter in Antigua, the ancient capital city. There, cobblestone streets are repaired, and homes are freshly painted and adorned with purple and white banners, lilies, and ribbons as the town gets ready to host visitors from all over the world.

Community members work through the night to decorate the streets with elaborate designs.

Holy Week celebrations were introduced in Guatemala by the Spanish in the mid-16th century. But it’s the blend of Guatemala’s native Mayan culture with the Spanish Catholic tradition that gives Guatemala’s Semana Santa its unique flavor.

Semana Santa begins with families and community groups decorating the streets with elaborate designs made of sawdust, sand, flowers, pine needles, fruits, and vegetables. Bright lamps light up the streets as artists work through the night, sitting on raised boards as they create designs directly on the ground. Their decorations include images of birds and flowers, geometric designs, and even some 3D designs. All are made of bright reds, yellows, purples, oranges, blues, and greens. Because they look like fancy carpets, they are known by the Arabic word for carpets, alfombras.

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