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Holy Week Around the World

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As Holy Week come and goes every year, we think of what we do to celebrate the death and ressurection of Jesus Christ here in the United States, but do we every think of what other countries do? As real eye opener, the articles below go through how other countries, from France, to Nigeria, all the way to Sweden.
Many Christians in France attend special Church services to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday. Church bells are not rung on the Friday and Saturday before Easter Sunday as an all-purpose rule, which is a sign of grieving and remembrance. However, church bells are rung for a long time and in a memorial manner curing the Church services on Easter Sunday.
    Easter is called Pâques in France. The main celebration sets off on Good Friday with a somber note. To mourn the crucifixion of Christ, church   bells are not rung for three days. On Easter morning, children hurry into the garden to watch the bells “Fly back from Rome”.
      Holy Week and Easter is celebrated in France much as it is in America.  It is celebrated with religious ceremonies, commemorating the rebirth of Jesus, and cultural customs. They also celebrate Easter with rabbits, chocolates, and eggs. According to the French Friends Info, the main religion in France is Roman-Catholic. On the Thursday before Good Friday, all church bells in France are silenced in acknowledgement of Jesus’ death.  The children in France are told that the bell’s chimes have flown to Rome to see the Pope. On Easter morning, the bells ring out once again to celebrate the Resurrection. In some towns, people kiss and embrace one another when they hear the bells ring. As the children go look for decorated Easter eggs around the house, they are told that the eggs were brought from Rome, and when the chimes returned they brought the eggs with them. The French, unlike Americans, assign an extra vacation for Easter. But they do automatically have a three day weekend in which the French families spend time together.
      A fun Easter game that the French do is that they roll raw eggs down a gentle slope. The surviving egg is then the victory egg and represents the stone being rolled away from Jesus’ tomb. The children may also toss raw eggs in the air. Whoever drops and breaks the egg first is done with the game or gives up a piece of their Easter candy. The last one with the egg in perfect shape is the winner!
Easter is celebrated in Germany with symbols of bunnies, eggs, and  chocolate.  Since the majority of the German culture is Christian, they  have a lot of the same customs that we have as Americans. Germans  celebrate Good Friday by not eating meat, followed by Holy Saturday,  when Germans go to Easter Markets (Osternmarkt). At these Easter  Markets, Germans sell chocolate bunnies, decorated eggs, and other  decorations for German homes. Most Germans shop at these markets  throughout the Easter season, but it is especially common on Holy  Saturday. Easter is mostly celebrated in the same way that it is  celebrated in America. Unlike the U.S., however, Germany has a parade  called Sommertagszug, which is celebrated three weeks before Easter.  This parade is a spring fest to welcome summer.  Citizens dress up as an  old tree with a snowman on top followed by a new tree decorated with  colorful eggs. The children also dress up as little ducklings and they  hold big pretzels placed on top of sticks which are decorated with an  Easter egg and ribbons. Another custom in Germany, mostly Bavaria, is to  decorate wells around the city with hollowed-out eggs and ornaments.  They decorate these wells because ti is believed that the water that is  blessed on Easter Sunday has special powers. Despite these differences,  Holy Week in Germany is similar to the customs shared here in the U.S.
Holy Week (Semana Santa)  is a very important week to Brazil. Brazil has  the highest population of Catholics in the world. The holiday is  celebrated through September/ November, when the spring season is for  them.Traditions that we do here in the United States are sufficiently  different than those that are celebrated in Africa or Asia. The  celebration in Brazil is marked by colorful traditions and customs. To  begin the week, the people of Brazil participate in the palm branch  blessing, which are woven into crosses, and letters.  Using these crosses, the people then start marches and parades through  their specific towns and villages.
The  Rio Carnival follows the Easter Celebration, which takes place the days  following Ash Wednesday (first 40 days of Lent). A parade with lots of  tourist, and local concludes the night.One of the traditions is the  “Carpets on the Streets” is when the citizens of Brazil create colorful  carpets the night before the Sunday procession for everyone to walk on.  The Macela flowers are sometimes put onto the carpets, this flower only  blooms in Lent. And this specific flower is entirely devoted to the Lord  Jesus Christ. Then on Palm Sunday, the flowers are brought to the  church to receive a blessing from the priest. Following the Sunday mass,  food is prepared from the native items of Brazil.
“The schedule of events in Brazil:
  • Procession and Mass on Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos)
  • Sunday  before Easter. They commemorate Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem, when  palms were spread before Him as He rode into town on a donkey.  Traditionally, people carry palms that are then blessed and taken home.
  • Lava-pés (Washing of the Feet)
  • As Christ washed His apostles’ feet, twelve people from various social  classes have their feet washed by priests during a special mass on Holy  Thursday.
  • Descent of the Cross
  • Good Friday. Procession and Mass.
  • Paschal Vigil (Vigília Pascal). A service held between  sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on  Easter Sunday, with the lighting of a new fire which will, in turn,  light the Easter Candle, symbol of Jesus Christ’s light unto the world.
  • Festive Easter Sunday Procession and Mass”
In Jamaica, Holy Week consists of many traditions that have been carried down from generations. One tradition that has been carrie down in the hot cross buns. They are sometimes called Easter buns, and they are a  BIG part of Jamaican culture, just like several other representative  foods such as saltfish or ackee. The tradition found its way to England,  where cross buns were eaten on Good Friday, with the cross symbolizing  the crucifixion of Jesus. The British then captured Jamaica, and they brought the custom to the island. Easter is  It is preceded by forty days of Lent, during which some Jamaicans abstain from their favourite indulgencies. Some will give up drinking alcohol, eating pork, or meat altogether. They tend to eat more fish especially in Good Friday. Most schools get a  2 week Easter vacation but no spring break. Good Friday and Easter Monday are considered public holidays and most people attend church on Good Friday in dark colors to mark the 3 hours that Jesus spent on the cross. Saturday and Sunday are a but more joyous and ladies will wear white dresses to church. On Easter Monday, families will spend the day on the island or the beaches with their families participating in fun events or flying kites. Another event that usually happens during Easter week is something called Carnival. This includes costumed parades featuring local and popular soca artists.
Holy Week in Spain, or Semana Santa, is celebrated every day and night in the streets, starting with Palm Sunday leading up to Easter Sunday. According to, “People carry statues of saints around on floats or wooden platforms, and an atmosphere of mourning – which can seem quite oppressive to onlookers – and the Easter week processions end with Easter Sunday, a day full of light and color when church and cathedral bells are heard ringing throughout the country.”  What might appear odd is the resemblance of what the “brotherhoods” wear. They wear clothing resembling the klu klux klan, but are really meant to resemble those of the Nazareños, or people of Nazareth. There are many traditions that are kept each year; some of them are very interesting. Such as the system the fraternities and brotherhoods must organize to keep the procession going smoothly, that takes time to plan. All the cities have amazing celebrations, also wrote, “The most famous Easter celebrations are held in various Andalusian towns, Valladolid, Toledo, Segovia, Burgos, Zamora and Cuenca.” You can read more on the street processions by clicking on the following link: Semana Santa is considered to some the most important celebration in Spain. The processions through the streets consist of floats and statues, honoring Jesus and Mary the mother of God. every town keeps busy, preparing spiritually an emotionally for the coming of the Lord, just like Pope Benedict XVI’s schedule which you can read by clicking on the following link: To see more pictures on Holy Week in Spain click on the following link to see some truly spectacular images: Spain might celebrate Holy Week differently than those in the United States, the overall message is the same. Celebrate however you want, but in the end, just thank the Lord, and celebrate the death and resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ.
Holy week is one of the most famous religious feasts in Peru. Originally celebrated in Spain, represents sacrifice and death of Jesus in the Calvary. All citizens of this city participate.
  • Every year, thousands of people from all the country and foreigners arrive to Ayacucho to participate of the religious devotion of these people. People from the surrounding cities arrive in caravans to Ayacucho.
Celebrations begin on Sunday, which they call “Domingo de Ramos” (meaning Palms), and they end the next Sunday, “Domingo de Pascua” (meaning Easter). Every day, during the Holy Week, processions take place as well as religious manifestations. They are accompanied with folkloric dances. Along with these celebrations, artisan and cattle fairs take place.
  • During the first Sunday of the Holy Week, people do a remembrance of the triumphal entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem. Very early in the morning, donkeys and llamas, with herbs from the area, enter the city. Later those herbs are incinerated during the next Sunday, which is Easter.
Then, on Wednesday, the image of Jesus is venerated. All the pilgrims surround the image holding candles in their hands, and in that moment, the light from the cityis turned down. Images of some other saints, taken from churches of the area, accompany this procession.
After that, on Thursday, people visit the 33 churches of the city.
On Friday, there is a big procession to Saint Sepulcher. It begins during the evening from Santo Domingo Church. A coffin made of crystal with the image of Jesus that lays on white rose petals, go over the city, followed with another images and women from the city all dressed in black.
  • Saturday is the day in which “Morochucos”, riding on horses, climb the Acuchimay Mountain with people from Ayacucho.
Then, on Sunday all the people wake up with the ringing of the bells from all the churches in Ayacucho. After that they go to the Cathedral, carrying out a very big image of Jesus brought back to life, which is image is carried by more than 250 men. They go around the city, with many pilgrims, which ends this special Holy Week.
The country of Nigeria is a fairly small country in Africa. It’s population is 170,123,740 and they live in the Middle to Eastern part of the country. They have 37 states and the owners of Lagos. The country is divided by Islam and Christianity. Catholicism and Christianity is split by the Protestant religion. Now what does this have to do with Lent in Nigeria well even tho lent is in 3 of there 4 or 5 major religions not all of them celebrate Lent the same. There main languages are Edo, Efik, Fulani, Idoma, Ijaw, Kanuri, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and English. They celebrate the season of Lent by
Many Christian churches hold special services on Palm Sunday where  congregation members receive blessed palm leaves, which symbolize victory and  joy. Palm Sunday palms are usually kept and used to make the Ash Wenesday ashes  for the next year. Service readings focus on the story of Jesus’s entry into  Jerusalem and the events in his life that took place, including his suffering,  prior to his death on the cross. Churches may involve children by blessing them,  including children’s songs and hymns, or having special Sunday school  sessions. Some people in the Catholic communtiy dedicate this time to learning  about Jesus’s life and ressuraction Some university chapel choirs sing special  songs on Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is observed among many Christian churches as  part of Holy Week in Canada. It is the last Sunday during the Lenten period, as  well as the Sunday before Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday events and traditions have  been observed in Canada for many years. Newspaper articles as far back as the  late 19th century described Palm Sunday observations such as the blessing of  palms at church services in cities such as Winnipeg, in Manitoba. For  Good Friday Christians may attend special church services, even if they do not  attend church regularly during the rest of the year. Good Friday is a day of  mourning and quiet prayer among many Christians. The candles are often  extinguished and statues, paintings and crosses may be draped in black, purple  or gray cloth. Some Catholics observe a partial fast on Good Friday and do not  eat any meat. A traditional treat for Good Friday is hot cross buns.
Holy week is a very heart filled and emotional time with tourists visiting family and everyone confessing all the sins they had that year. The family there participates in some, like going to mass on Palm Sunday and including every other day of that week. Though most of the families don’t participate in the activities on Friday. On this day the streets are covered with red representing the blood of Christ.  On this day emotions fly off the roof and people get let’s say really into their faith. Honestly it is a really cool thing to see people act so seriously toward their faith. When we go to church every weekend is nothing compared to the people that have been going every day to church for six years or more so it is a really good thing to see and inspire us by. Also the people have a big meal on Easter that they invite there entire family that is in Malta and visiting family. They celebrate for a couple days after as long as the food lasts I Guess. So that is what Malta does In its holy week.
Easter is highly celebrated in Mexico as the Mexicans take much pride in their faith. The majority of Mexico’s population is Catholic. During the Easter seasons from Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Pascua (Ressurection Sunday until the following Saturday). This two week period is the time of rest and mainly vacations for many Mexican families as they mourn for the marking of Christ’s last days of life, then resurrection. In many communities, it is popular for families of all ages to watch and attend the full Passion Play, which enacts this excruciating time of Jesus. The most important day for Catholics throughout Easter is probably Easter Sunday Domingo De Gloria. In Mexico, all the churches will be packed with people on this day and Holy Communion is expected from the Catholic audience. After mass, there are sometimes celebrations in the streets with little festivals consisting of food, carnival rides, music, and fun as they celebrate Jesus’s life and his sacrifice to our lives. This is by far the most important holiday for Roman Catholic Mexicans and should be celebrated like this for life everlasting as Jesus is our savior.
Vatican City:
The country of Vatican City is located in Europe and is surronded by Italy. It is the country where the Pope  lives and rules. The country is completely Roman Catholic and therefore  celebrates Holy Week. What is Holy Week? According to, “Holy Week is the week which precedes the great festival of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, and which consequently is used to commemorate the Passion of Christ, and the event which immediately led up to it.” In Vatican City’s official language, Latin, the word for Holy Week is hebdomada major. The festivities begin on Palm Sunday with a mass with the Pope in St. Peter’s Square. On Holy Thurday. At 9:30 the  morning there will be a Chrism Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and at 5:30 in the evening there will be a Mass of the Lord’s Supper in St John Lateran Basilica.  After Holy Thurday, Good Friday, the day Jesus was hung on the cross is  celebrated. At 5 in the evening at St. Peter’s Basilica there will be a  Celebration of the Lord’s Passion.  Later at night on Good Friday there will be The Way of the Cross, also  called The Stations of the Cross, at 9:15 at night in the Coliseum. The only event on Saturday is an Easter  Vigil Mass at 9 at night in St Peter’s Basilica. On Easter Sunday, the  celebration of the Resurection of Jesus there will be a mass at 10:15 in the morning at St Peter’s Square. Then at noon there will be an “Urbi  et Orbi” Blessing in St Peter’s Square. This celebration concludes the  Holy Week’s scheduled events. All of the scheduled events require  tickets except, the blessing on Easter Sunday and the Way of the Cross  on Good Friday. These tickets are all free of charge! If you can’t make it to Vatican City your not out of luck, you can watch it on tv! According to the Catholic News Agency, “There will be three global broadcasts: the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday, April 22; the April 24 Easter Sunday Mass followed by Pope Benedict XVI’s “Urbi et Orbi” address from St. Peter’s Square; and the Holy Mass and Beatification of the Servant of God,  Pope John Paul II on May 1, also from St. Peter’s Square.” To find out more about the television brodcast go to  .In addition to the  scheduled events all of the museams in Vatican City will be open the whole week. Holy Week in Vatican City is not celebrated that much different then in the United States. However it is celebrated by the whole entire country. While in the United States, it is only celebrated by some of the population.
Most people who live in the bubble known as the United States don’t stop to think about the happenings in other countries. Like everything else, the week leading up to Easter Sunday, Holy Week is celebrated in many foreign lands and in many different ways.
The home country of Catholicism, well Roman Catholicism, Italy celebrates Holy Week much more elaborately than the US does. A student from Loyola University, Allison Krueger had the opportunity to study abroad last year, taking classes for a semester in Rome, Italy. She got the chance to experience Holy Week and Easter as it was celebrated throughout the country. She described her experience, explaining how in-depth the week is celebrated throughout the country. Krueger said, “In Vatican City the stations of the cross were on display. One thing I can note is that it was so extremely crowded during Holy Week.”
Palm Sunday, marking the beginning of the week, is celebrated with a Mass held at Saint Peter’s Square. Throughout the week, the city became more and more crowded with people, looking to participate in the week’s festivities. On Holy Thursday, Krueger took part in a candle lit procession, visiting about 10 churches throughout Rome. The Holy Thursday tradition of the washing of feet was offered, but she kindly turned down the offer. On Good Friday night, Pope Benedict XVI conducted a candle lit version of the Stations of the Cross, which began at the Coliseum and continued on until Palestine.
After a week filled with much celebration and anticipation, it was finally Easter Sunday. Easter Mass was held at the Vatican, of course, however a ticket was required in order to enter. Krueger attended the Easter Sunday Mass and she explained how she had to wake up very early to ensure she would be able to obtain a seat in Saint Peter’s Square. The Pope arrived for Mass in the “Popemobile,” he waved and touched the hands of the people on his trip to the steps of Saint Peter’s Basilica, which took the role as the altar for Mass. “The entire Mass was projected on two very large screens so those that were sitting far away could still see what was going on,” explained Krueger. She then continued: “The Mass was said primarily in Italian however, a few other languages where included in the Mass, for instance the readings were done in languages other than Italian. The Gospel was read in Latin. And then finally the Pope said ‘Happy Easter’ at the end of Mass in at least 30 different languages.” It was quite an experience she said, and definitely not one she will soon forget.
Every Catholic-country has its’ own way of celebrating, even if everyone doesn’t have the opportunity to experience it, it still occurs, and it’s still something interesting to learn and know about.
Sweden has been a Christian country since the time of the Vikings, so they naturally celebrate Holy Week and Easter. Although there is a slight mix because some holidays in are based off of pagan traditions as well as Christian ones. Although people don’t really give anything up for Lent, they still celebrate the pain of Jesus on the Cross during Holy Week, but also they celebrate an old Pagan tradition on Thursday. All the children dress up like Witches and walk around going from house to house getting candy, just like Halloween. An example of some things Swedes do at church i found a schedule of St. Eugenia Catholic Community in Stockholm, Sweden’s Capital:
Apr 1 HolyThursday
19:30 Concelebrated High Mass with the Ceremony of the Washing of Feet
Apr 2 Good Friday
11:00 Way of the Cross for Children
15:00 Celebration of the Lord’s Passion and the Veneration of the Cross
18:00 Good Friday Liturgy (Gheez)
Apr 3 Holy Saturday
20:30 Easter Vigil Mass
Agape Meal follows
Apr 4 Easter Sunday
09:30 Mass
11:00 Easter High Mass
13:00 Mass (Gheez)
18:00 Mass (English)
So falcons, what do you think? Do you celebrate Holy Week like any of these countries? Let us know!
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Holy Week Around the World