Celebrating Easter in Peru

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Celebrating Easter in Peru

Updated March 17, 2015

Semana Santa-CuscoA lasting tradition during the Holy Week processions, people toss ñucchu flowers as the crucifix passes to symbolize the blood of Christ.

Easter Week or Semana Santa is one of the most anticipated holidays all across Latin America. The religious holiday celebrates the last week of Lent leading up to the Easter Sunday celebration. While Spain may be most famous for its Semana Santa celebrations, the traditions are equally outlandish here in Latin America. Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring the best Latin America travel destinations to experience Semana Santa. This week, we begin where this particular holiday is feverishly observed: Peru.

Cusco

The Inca capital’s Easter observations revolve around the Señor de los Temblores (Lord of the Earthquakes). The story behind the statue of Christ is as interesting as the celebrations which follow it. The statue was supposedly sent by the King of Spain as a way of converting the local Indians and was installed in the church where it darkened to a copper color from the smoke of many candles. During a major earthquake on May 31, 1650, locals took the statue out of the church and the earthquake miraculously stopped. Ever since then, the statue has lived in the hearts of the locals and this can be seen by the symbolic six-hour tour across Plaza de Armas and its surrounding streets which occurs on Easter Monday.

Food is another major aspect of Easter in Peru, since it represents both a sign of gratitude and an opportunity to rejoice at reaching the end of the long Lenten fast. On Good Friday, it is customary to taste the twelve different traditional dishes which range from soups, fish, potato dishes to delicious desserts such as candy apple and corn.  For those who have had the chance to travel to Cusco during Easter, it is the warmth of the people and their proud celebrations which made their trip such an unforgettable experience. The city welcomes visitors from all around the world to celebrate the most popular weekend on the calendar.

A lasting tradition during the Holy Week processions, people toss ñucchu flowers as the crucifix passes to symbolize the blood of Christ.

Ayacucho

Ayacucho’s Easter celebrations are considered Peru’s finest religious festival and continues to attract visitors from all around the country. The ceremonies begin on the Friday before Palm Sunday, with the re-enactment of the meeting between Christ and his mother, the Virgen Dolorosa. Following the reenactment is Palm Sunday which is a festive occasion, with mules and palms wandering around the city.

Following the sad rituals of Good Friday, Saturday takes on an entirely different tone. An open air market with crafts, food and music draws a huge crowd who enjoy chicha orchacta and the chewing of coca leaves. Consequently, participants in Ayacucho’s holy week celebrations use this time to party and explore the natural beauty, surrounding the south-central part of the Andes. With dawn on Easter Sunday, the religious rites begin again and culminate in a joyous celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Music, song, prayers and fireworks mark the day, with a huge all-night party leading up to dawn fireworks to conclude the week-long celebrations of Easter.

Arequipa

Arequipa has always been a major tourist destination for its beautiful colonial architecture and breathtaking Colca Valley. However, the major celebrations during Easter can be found not in the main-square but rather in the nearby village of Paucarpata where religious observations along with regional traditions make this event a truly unique experience. While Arequipa follows many of Peru’s traditional Easter celebrations, however it is undoubtedly different on Easter Sunday where the burning Judas’ effigy symbolizes an act of justice and punishment. This vivid act can be best seen from Yanahuara and is then followed by a fireworks shows which lightens up the entire city and draws a fitting end to the Easter celebrations.

Arequipa is widely considered one of Peru’s gastronomic capitals and the rich food on display during Easter pays tribute to that. Make sure to try some of the city’s most famous dishes such as chupe de camarones, rocoto relleno and ocopa while on a Arequipa vacation.

Semana Santa, Arequipa, Peru, Peru for LessPeople flood the streets of Arequipa during Semana Santa to indulge in dancing, delicious food, and  festivities.

Celebrating Easter in Peru 2015

The Holy Week of 2015, according to the liturgical calendar, will be held between March 29 and April 4, 2015. In Peru, Holy Thursday and Good Friday are national holidays and will be celebrated on the April 2nd and 3rd. If you are planning to travel during this time, it is best to book your trip as early as possible as flights and hotels fill up quickly. For good reason, major cities in Peru are popular destinations during Semana Santa. No matter which city you find yourself in, you are guaranteed a uniquely Peruvian cultural experience that you will never forget!

Our travel advisors at Latin America For Less are specialists in Peru travel. Contact us to start planning your dream Peru vacation package.

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About Author

Chris loves to read, travel, play sports and win at monopoly. He has been fortunate enough to travel all across the world and learned from every culture he's visited. He hopes to be alive to see his city, Toronto, win another major sports championship.

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