Semana Santa – The Passion of Christ Begins

by Judy King 31. March 2010 22:46

diciple Jueves Santo (Maundy or Holy Thursday)
In some of Mexico's cities and villages, the faithful spend Holy Thursday visiting seven different churches to commemorate the seven stopping places of Christ between his arrest at Gethsemane and his crucifixion at Calvary. For some the custom has  expanded to meditate on one or two of the Stations of the Cross (Via del Cruces) in each church.

Ajijic's reenactment of the passion of Jesus continues on Thursday evening when Jesus and his disciples gather for their portrayal of the Last Supper, (7 p.m. Mass in the atrium of San Andrés.)

During this service one of the priests repeats the motions of Jesus by washing the feet of the disciples.


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After Mass Jesus and his followers walk up onto the mountain to replicate the Biblical scene in the garden. Jesus retreats from the group to pray and returns to find his disciples asleep.

Meanwhile, the Roman soldiers have been mustering and preparing to go in search of Jesus. By the time they storm the mountain, it is dark in Ajijic and their progress up the mountain to find and arrest Jesus can be tracked from the village. The flames of the torches moving along the twisting paths looks like a serpent of fire curving up the hill.

Once Jesus has been arrested and the soldiers march him to the town plaza where he is taken to the courtyard of the chapel on the north side of the plaza which represents the court of the Sanhedrin. There he is placed into custody to await trial. To complete the prophecies, the spectators also witness the three betrayals of Christ by Peter, and hear the crowing of the cock.

The Bells are Silenced

With the arrest of Jesus, the church bells which normally chime every hour and quarter hour and announce several daily Masses are silenced. They will not ring again until the Saturday night end of the Easter Eve vigil when the resurrection of Christ is announced and celebrated.

Come back Friday, Saturday and Sunday for more Semana Santa and Pascua (Easter) activities and traditions.

Want to Know More? Here Are Links to Related Posts:

During the Thursday evening portrayal of the Biblical scenes, Peter denies his Master three times, and then the cock crows, fulfilling a prophecy. The Rooster has carried unhappy and unlucky connotations for centuries. You can learn more in  Mexico Superstitions: The Rooster

Sunday was Palm Sunday. Did you attend the joyous procession that traditionally begins the Ajijic Passion Play? Read more: Celebrating Palm Sunday

Mary, the mother of Jesus is called the Virgin of Dolores (the Virgin of Sorrows) as she appears during the Passion of Christ. She is remembered with home altars on the last Friday of Lent; as neighbors visit they say, “Has the Virgin Wept Here.” They are served limonada (limeade) or other slightly sour fruit drinks, sometimes with Chia seed to recall the bitter tears of a mother in pain. Read more in: The Feast of the Virgin of Dolores

Are you curious about the Message of the Bells on ordinary days? Take a look at the stories they tell in our blog post: Listen The Bells Have a Message

 

 


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Celebrating Palm Sunday

by Judy King 26. March 2010 15:06

palm-sunday-street-alfalfa Mexico is renowned for local interpretations of the Easter events in the form of Passion Plays which portray the last days of Christ as reported in the Bible. The oldest, largest and best known of these meaningful productions at Lakeside which takes place each year in Ajijic.

Cuaresma (Lent), the 40 days before Easter, is a time for Christians to meditate and prepare for the Easter season with its story of death and rebirth. Those 40 days are also the final countdown for the hundreds of Ajijic's townspeople who work each year to produce the elaborate sets for the numerous scenes and days' events that comprise Ajijic's Passion Play.

With the beginning of Lent on Miercoles de Ceniza (Ash Wednesday), the building of props and sets, the sewing of biblical robes and Roman cloaks, and the rehearsals gather steam with an eye on Semana Santa (the week before Easter Sunday) when the last days and steps of Christ are portrayed through the village and onto the mountainside.

palm-sunday-JesusBlessing the Palms, The Palm Sunday Procession, and Mass 
Semana Santa (Holy Week) and the annual Passion Play begin on a high note with the joyful celebration of Domingo do Ramos (Palm Sunday). Descriptions of Palm Sunday in the Bible tell of Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem in a triumphant procession surrounded by His friends while believers follow, singing hosannas and waving palms (and the branches of the fields).

palm-sunday-people On the Sunday before Easter (March 28 in 2010), artisans gather near the entrance of most churches to weave fresh palm fronds into a variety of clever designs from billowing sails, to crosses and even the Virgin of Guadalupe.

In preparation of the procession, townspeople all along Ajijic’s street that runs from the main church to Six Corners (Parroquia and Hidalgo) carefully clean and sweep the street, dampen it with water and then cover the surface with a blanket of fresh alfalfa.

The palms are blessed during the day’s Masses and at Six Corners before the late afternoon procession (beginning about 6:15 p.m.) in which villagers carry the palms, branches of fresh rosemary (for remembrance) and chamomile (representing the purity of Mary and the light of Christ) from Six Corners to the Templo de San Andrés (the large church near the plaza).

At the head of the procession, beginning the week-long traditional Passion Play, is Jesus riding a donkey, surrounded by a group of men dressed as his disciples.

The processions arrives at Ajijic’s main church just in time for an outdoor 7 p.m. Mass in the church atrium.

palm-sunday-ponche

An Old Fashioned Sunday Evening in the Plaza

Later villagers gather in the plaza for an old-time Sunday evening, Ajijic style. Lining the plaza are food booths decorated with palm fronds and tissue paper flowers – reminiscent of plaza celebrations 50 or 100 years ago. Area residents sell old fashioned, homemade treats including arroz con leche (rice pudding), home toasted seeds and nuts, jamaica (a cool beverage made from the dried flowers of the red hibiscus), ponche (Mexican punch) and a great deal more.

Organizers try to keep this truly an old timey event. Most of the treats are served without benefit of plastic cups and plates, and the music flowing from the band in kiosko (gazebo) is beautifully unamplified.

There are other old traditions, too. Children and teens delight in impromptu battles with cascarones (egg shells filled with confetti) flying across the plaza and breaking and showering friends with confetti.

palm-sunday-lotteria There’s a table for children to win old time wooden toys while playing Mexico’s delightful version of Bingo where pictures of common objects and people replace the letters and numbers on the card that must be filled.

As darkness falls, the villages young people, and those who are young at heart, begin the very traditional Mexican paseo (stroll around the plaza).

The boys and young men walk clockwise around the plaza while the groups of giggling girls stroll in the opposite direction. Occasionally a young man catches the eye and approval of a girl and falls out of formation to walk the rest of the evening with her. This explains why the Spanish word for walk (andar) is used  to describes a couple that is dating!

In the heavily not-too-distant old times, many couples met and started their romances and relationships in the Sunday evening paseos, under the watchful eyes of their parents, godparents, aunts, uncles and neighbors. In those days young men presented the object of their attention with a flower purchased at the plaza.  If the girl kept the flower, he knew she was interested. If she returned it the next time they circled the square, he’d been rejected in full view of the entire community.

Watch for our next post on Monday which outlines more Semana Santa (Holy Week) traditions and tips.


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

The Feast of the Virgin of Dolores

by Judy King 26. March 2010 13:47

Ajijic-Virgin-of-Dolores Each Friday in Lent is marked with a procession and recitation of the Rosary through a different barrio Ajijic. Today, the village's attention focuses on the sadness, pain and suffering that Mary, the mother of Jesus will experience next week she sees her son sentenced to death, and then die on the cross.

Mary is the Virgin of Dolores

Mary, in this aspect of her life is known as The Virgin de Dolores (dolor is the Spanish word for pain.) Very old traditions and customs call for residents to create an altar of offerings—items that symbolize the dolores (grief and pain) of the mother near the door of their homes.

Explaining the Offerings of SymbolsDolores-prayer-card

Altars of Dolores are usually draped in white for the purity of Mary and purple, the color of mourning with a center section covered in brown and topped with a cross—representing Calvary.

The light that accompanies Mary is present in the candles and is reflected in the colorful pitchers of agua frescas (fruit drinks) which represent her tears.

Spring plants and grasses

Chamomile flowers, palms and ferns are common on local altars. The green plants represent humility, the yellow centers of the fresh daisy-like flowers of the chamomile remind us of the beauty of soul and body, while the white petals are another reference to Mary's purity. The ladder-like structure of the ferns and palms call to mind the ladder used to remove the body of Christ from the cross.

Dolores-altar-wheat dolores-altar-hands

Chia and wheat seeds are sown in pots or small containers a week or two before the feast day, but the wheat is kept in the dark so that the sprouting grasses will be a contrasting yellow color on the altar—calling our attention to ripening wheat—a symbol of Jesus as the "bread of life". The bright green new grass of the chia is a symbol of rebirth and new life. Undoubtedly the tradition of these sprouting grasses probably also was the inspiration for the custom of filling baskets with “Easter grass” north of the border.

 dolores-altar-boorah dolores-cross-boorah

(Left:) Decorated in mourning purple, this elaborate altar for La Virgen de Dolores features white flowers and a series of symbols was taken in Guanajuanto. (Right:) During the Ajijic Passion Play, Jesus stops to speak with his  grieving mother.(Photos by Paul Boorah)

Offerings for the Virgin of Dolores are rich with other symbols of the suffering of Christ and his mother: 

  • Bitter oranges, often painted gold, hold fluttering tiny colorful tissue paper flags represent the bitterness Mary felt when she saw her son on the cross.
  • The gold in which they are covered reminds us of the joy that Mary felt when her son was resurrected from the dead.
  • The colorful flags, (or colored egg shapes or circles used to decorate the area) symbolize joy, the rebirth of the earth in the spring and the peace around the world that we pray for.
  • Ladders (often cut from white paper) represent the grief of Mary when the body was removed from the cross.
  • The cloak which was divided by the solders symbolizes the inhumanity and suffering.
  • The hands recall Pilate who washed his hands clean of the incident.

The Traditional Question:

If you visit a home that has mounted an altar for the Virgin of Dolores, be sure to ask the traditional question, "Has the Virgin Mary cried here?" You will be served a glass of limonada con chia (lemonade with chia seeds) a drink to recall the virgin's bitter tears.

What Happens Next:

Today’s observation of the Virgin of Dolores begins a week of events commemorating and symbolizing the last days in the life and Passion of Christ in Ajijic, and many other Mexican villages.

Our next post will outline the joyful procession on Palm Sunday.


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

About Judy King

Judy King

Hi There — Welcome to my little corner of the world. I'm Judy King and I live in the centuries-old village of Ajijic on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest natural lake.

I've lived here full time since 1990, and... [ more ]

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