Last year we started our Easter Sunday with a bright bouquet of yellow and yellow/red variegated tulips, ombre easter eggs, Lake Champlain chocolate bunnies, goldenrod candles in crystal candle sticks, blue/green Guatemalan placemats with butter yellow napkins, homemade chocolate croissants, eggs poached in a bed of fresh baby spinach, and a dry bubbly breakfast Rosé. All in all, I think we did a good job of counteracting the dreary gloom of the Vermont mud season – an unfortunate part of celebrating Easter in Vermont.
This year things are going to be a little bit different. We will be celebrating Semana Santa from Guatemala this year. A brief foray into the Easter’s of my childhood. The resurrection of old memories, and a new context in which to place them.
In Latin America a lot of emphasis is placed on Good Friday and the days leading up to the resurrection instead of on Easter Sunday and the coming of Spring. A large part of the Semana Santa celebrations in Guatemala are the processions or Procesiones. In the week before and of Semana Santa each community will have a series of processions that leave from the local church and making its way on a predetermined route around town. The processions consist of a series of heavy floats carried by purple or black garbed parishioners looking to do penance in the days leading up to the resurrection.
One of my favorite parts of the Procesiones are the beautiful alfombras laid out around town in the days and hours before a procession. Families and different community groups create large elaborate rugs out of sawdust and flower petals that cover large stretches of the road along the procession route, and as the procession progresses they walk over the rugs destroying them. The fleeting beauty an apt allegory for the fragility of life, and a harsh reminder that all worldly joys must come to an end.
In Huehuetenango, in particular, they place a lot of emphasis on the reenactment of the crucifixion. In the months before Semana Santa the community assigns a series of roles to its various community members, and as the weeks draw by the entire crucifixion story is played out around the community. On Good Friday you can see the Christ impersonator crowned in thorns dragging a heavy cross through the streets as the onlookers jeer and heckle him from the side lines. He is even accompanied by two thieves from the local jail also dragging their crosses out of town, up the hill, and to the crucifixion site.
As a child this whole process was slightly traumatizing – I was terrified of Roman soldiers. They would come storming into your house or work space searching for Christ, and you would see them galloping around town on horseback hunting him down. Things have calmed down a bit over the decades, and while they still do the reenactment in the Huehuetenango suburb of Chiantla things have become a lot tamer.