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Popular Easter Traditions in South America

Popular Easter Traditions South America

Every year, thousands of people from Peru and travelers from all over the world arrive in Ayacucho, Peru to participate in the popular Easter tradition that includes religious processions, masses,  various devotions, and massive parties that take place throughout the week.  Ayacucho, Peru will give you an authentic Easter experience that is unlike many of the traditional tourist locations.

Tucked away in the Andes Mountains, Ayacucho, Peru is famously known for La Semana Santa (Holy Week), one of the most popular Easter traditions in South America. A similar celebration is carried out in Spain, with its most glamorous celebrations held in the region of Andalusia; particularly in Málaga and Sevilla.  The celebration itself represents the sacrifice and death of Jesus.

There are 33 churches in total in Ayacucho, each representing a year of Jesus’ life.   Inca stonework can still be seen in the surrounding buildings throughout the city with cobblestone streets, and colonial architecture intermixed amongst the brilliantly colored churches.  

Ayacucho is definitely a significant part of Spiritual South America that we highlighted in a separate post. Please check it out as well as how we found the Most Efficient Charity Organization that I have ever seen while visiting Ayacucho. 

The celebrations begin on Palm Sunday and end on Easter Sunday.  Every day there are morning and afternoon masses with hundreds of worshipers in attendance held at the various churches by Archbishop Salvador Piñeiro García-Calderón throughout the city.   Sometimes there are evening masses held as well.

In addition to the masses, there are evening candlelit processions centered around Plaza Mayor (the Main Square) with thousands of people in attendance of this popular Easter tradition in South America. 

In addition to the masses and processions, celebrations include choreographed, folkloric dances, horse races, traditional Peruvian music, cooking contests, Peruvian artisan fairs, and a “running of the bulls” throughout the Main Square.  The town also has large festivals and concerts that start after the religious processions until the early hours of the morning.  

Throughout the week, the streets around Plaza Mayor are carpeted with flower petals arranged in tapestry-like designs.  Children from the surrounding schools come together and make the most spectacular artwork on the streets, mostly of flower petals, and various other things such as orange peels, rice, yarn, egg crates, peanut shells, grass, coffee grinds, etc, lending to the smell of fresh flowers and citrus in the air as one passes by.  The large-scale designs represent various religious designs.  

At the Main Square, various street food vendors are selling sandwiches, cookies, ice cream, and even have their own traveling bars where you can easily buy a pisco sour or beer for a couple soles.  

There are also many people throughout the crowds of people selling homemade candies, popcorn, choclo con queso, t-shirts, toys for the kids, cigarettes, water, and pretty much anything else you can think of. I believe you are now seeing why this is one of the most popular Easter traditions in South America!

From mourning and spiritual enlightenment to some very serious fun street festivities, La Semana Santa is the largest religious festival in Peru and a must do on your travel bucket list!  

Travel Tip:  If you are traveling to Ayacucho during La Semana Santa, make sure you book your hotel several months in advance as they fill up quickly.  Also, we found that getting to Ayacucho via the bus (from Chile) was not an easy thing to do.  We flew from Cusco to Lima then Lima to Ayacucho.  

Once in Ayacucho, you can get a taxi for 15-20 soles from the airport to downtown Ayacucho.  When you are in Ayacucho everything is within walking distance (supermarkets, hotels, Main Square, restaurants, etc.) and you will not need to use taxis.  Ayacucho is very safe to walk around both during the day and night.  Again, always follow common sense rules; be alert and organized, stay in main tourist areas, watch your valuables if you have them on you, and if you have been drinking alcohol take a taxi home instead of walking home. 

And, as you may know, we are big fans of Tactical Pens! I first read about it in the book Spy Secrets that can Save Your Life as we were preparing for our travels. Even though Ayacucho is a safe city, we always had our Tactical Pens on us. Luckily there was no reason to use them besides writing notes. Find this and other tips on our Travel Tools page.

Traveled April 2017

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