It’s that time of year again – eggs, extended family and enough chocolate to feed Luxembourg. It can only be Easter! We all have our idiosyncrasies when it comes to this festive time, but South America do it slightly differently to us…
Here in the UK, we tend to forget the religious aspect of Easter, but this a huge part of Argentinian life and culture. With a predominantly Catholic population (almost 75%), ‘Holy Week’ is a massive event featuring some spectacular outdoor services, attended by huge crowds. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday (yesterday, the 13th) and runs right through to Holy Saturday next week (the 19th) before Easter Sunday itself.
Argentinians are, culturally, very family-orientated and Easter is no exception. Easter Sunday is characterised by a huge feast, the giving and receiving of gifts and exchanging of eggs. Traditionally, Argentinians will prepare a special dish – ‘Rosca de Pascua’ – to eat on this day. Rosca de Pascua is a delicious kind of sweet bread filled with cream (certainly a favourite of ours at Latin Routes!).
Buenos Aires in particular is famous for its widely-attended services. There is Mass on every day except Good Friday, which is designated as a day for reflection on the death of Christ. The ‘Via Crucis’ ceremony also takes place on this day – in English, known as ‘The Station of the Cross’. This ceremony concerns the figure of Christ carrying the cross towards his place of crucifixion. If you’re on a holiday to Argentina at the time, it is certainly worth checking out – some Argentinians consider it the most important day of the year!
Although similar to Argentina in its emphasis on religious and family aspects, along with replacing meat with fish on Good Friday, Chile has its own cultural quirks around Easter. Palm Sunday, known as ‘Domingo de Ramos’ is celebrated with a procession, traditionally with people carrying olive branches instead of palms due to the difficulty in obtaining them in the Chilean climate.
On the Sunday after the Easter resurrection, the Festival of Quasimodo (not the fictional character) is celebrated in most regions in Chile. The festival typically has an elaborately-dressed mounted procession with the priest in a wagon tailing behind. The main purpose of this is to visit the old and infirm in order to deliver them communion if they are otherwise unable to come to church.
Later this week we’ll be having a look at the Easter traditions of Brazil!