My First Holy Week and Easter Experience in Nicaragua

My First Holy Week and Easter Experience in Nicaragua

Hola from Nicaragua!

Jesus is here in the morning
Jesus is here at noon

Jesus is here in the evening

so keep your heart in tune

This will be my first Holy Week and Easter experience in Nicaragua.  Nevertheless, I want to share with you some of the religious traditions that were shared with me by my catholic and protestant friends.  I am excited about experiencing this Holy celebration of our Christian faith.

Religious traditions are an important aspect of the Nicaraguan culture.  Holy Week, or Semana Santa in Spanish, is the most celebrated time during the Lent to Easter season.  I was told that throughout Nicaragua many groups participate in processions that are organized by the Catholic Church.  Such as:

            The Donkey Procession commonly known as ‘Procesión de las Palmas” (“Palm Procession”), but in Nicaragua it is popularly known as ‘Procesión de la Burrita’ because real donkeys are used in many churches to carry Jesus’ image.   This procession represents the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that was marked by the crowds that were waving palms and welcoming him as the messianic king.  This pageant lasts for a couple of hours and ends and starts in the chapel.

            Stations of the Cross referred to by the Latin phrase Via Crucis represents the biblical story about the painful journey traveled by Jesus to his place of death. Along the way, the group will stop for fourteen times, imitating the fourteen Stations of the Cross. These stops take place at houses where altars for Jesus have been set up. The statue is placed in the altar, while the people pray, sing, and make requests. Before the processions take place the priest is the one who selects the houses that will function as a station.

            The Service of Darkness known as ‘Santo Entierro’ symbolizes Jesus’ death and burial.  It takes place during the morning of Good Friday (the same day that the Station of the Cross takes place).  In the church, Jesus’ statue is placed in a casket, which is then carried around on the street followed by silent worshipers carrying candles. The slow march is accompanied by a drum roll and wind instruments that symbolize funeral songs.

Protestants have their own celebrations during Holy Week. The Moravian traditions, especially in Bluefields and other cities of the Caribbean Coast, where a large part of the population is Moravian, have different traditions.  One tradition that I was shared with me is that during Holy Sunday or Resurrection Sunday, the people gather in graveyards to participate in a short service and to give maintenance to the tombs. 

It is surely true that Holy Week is a passionate religious week for Nicaraguans.

However, not everyone participates with the prayers, songs or the processions during Holy Week.  For many Nicaraguans this is considered vacation time for relaxing, having fun and partying.  Most businesses are closed and transportation is minimal.  Going to the beach, Lake Nicaragua, the lagoons or one of the many rivers during Holy Week is a traditional custom. The people spend one or more days at the beach, the river or the lagoons. This is referred to as bacanalear.  Most of all at the Pacific region is fairly empty during the last days of Holy Week. However, towns located along the coast are generally flocked with thousands and thousands of vacationers from different countries.

Despite the economic disparity, our Nicaraguan sisters and brothers are spiritually beautiful people who are always ready to share and be of assistance for whatever is needed.

God answers prayer in the morning
God answers prayer at noon

God answer prayer in the evening

so keep your heart in tune

Faithfully submitted,

Jeanette Salley serves with the Moravian Church of Nicaragua. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.