‘La Semana Santa’ translates simply as ‘The Holy week’ and refers to the 7 days preceding Easter Sunday. In a predominantly catholic country, Easter is a very significant event arguably even more so than Christmas. It is a time when the devout and the pious indulge in religious activity, each day bringing yet another mass to attend and plenty of social activities. Street parades with holy figurines are the most obvious indication of the holy week with congregations of people following the sacred procession obediently. Though the main honour of maintaining and carrying the statues lies amongst those who are part of a ‘brotherhood’, the procession as a whole is regarded as a duty by most worshippers and therefore participation forms an honour in itself.
In Costa Rica, this particular week is of great importance especially amongst the older generations. It has been noted universally that the youth seldom participate in religious events, however, the street parades are often popular with younger children as it brings in an element of fun through a sense of community spirit. The added bonus of it being an annual event means more people feel inclined to participate through fear of missing out on something good!
It is known that La Semana Santa is popular both in Spain (where Seville hosts the most flamboyant celebrations) and in the Latin American world however, it is also celebrated discreetly in other countries where minorities of Catholics can be found. Speaking with relevance to my childhood in India, I remember taking part in events of a similar nature. As a young girl, I remember the procession growing rapidly in numbers the further we travelled and the streets filled with children in their best ‘church clothes’. This is a fine example of the importance of this tradition, where religion sometimes works positively in bringing together people of various cultures. It helps one realise that certain traditions aren’t confined to a respective country and can in fact be witnessed across the globe, in places least expected.
For tourists headed to Costa Rica, it is the perfect opportunity for them to witness some authentic cultural activity. Though it is likely that travel to Costa Rica during this period is considerably more (because of inbound tourists looking for an Easter break), it is believed the cultural experience and the lively atmosphere will only add to the appeal.
With the Easter holidays soon upon us, there is no doubt that students on break from their educational establishments will indulge in fun and games. However, in reality it is a time for reflection, for family and friends and a time to believe in miracles. You don’t have to be religious to be involved in La Semana Santa…you just need to have an appreciation for culture and tradition…and above everything, have respect for the country you reside in.
By Jaz Chopra