Semana Santa: Sabado Santo (Holy Saturday)

by Judy King 3. April 2010 21:26

soul8-candles Sábado de Gloria or Sábado Santo (Holy Saturday)
On Easter Saturday, church doors in Mexico are closed and locked most of the day. The always-burning candles at the altar were extinguished at the hour of Jesus death, and the saints are covered. In church buildings where from two and eight Masses are celebrated on every day of the year, only a brief prayer service is held on this day of deep mourning.

All remaining consecrated communion wafers and wine are removed from the church buildings during the Friday afternoon remembrance of the death of Jesus. On Saturday Jesus is no longer in the wafers or wine. There is no one home in the church. It is a dark, sad, empty shell.

soul9-risenEaster Eve Vigil
On Saturday night around seven, Ajijic townspeople carrying two-liter bottles of water and candles begin to gather on the plaza and in the churchyard for the Easter Eve vigil. During the first portion of this three-hour service the  parish priest blesses the year's supply of holy water and sacred candles, for the church and the people who have brought them to keep in their homes. The first candle to be lit is the huge ceremonial candle that resides in front of the altar all year and burns during baptisms, confirmations, first communions, weddings and other special ceremonies. From it all the other candles are lit, and the blessed fire is passed on from person to person through the crowd until the dark area begins to glow. 

The hundreds of chairs in the churchyard aren't nearly enough to hold the crowd that has assembled for this special ceremony and Mass. The service is highlighted by an 10 p.m. chorus of bells and skyrockets. The light, smoke and sound show accompany the announcement that Christ's tomb is empty and that he has risen from the dead. The candles, the holy water and the Host are carried into the church (empty and dark since Friday afternoon) bringing life back to the building. The religious portion of the night ends with the celebration of the Misa de Gloria (Mass of Glory), the first held since early Friday morning.

The Burning of Judas 
A centuries old Holy Saturday tradition has been reinstated in Ajijic -- paper maché effigies of Judas and other unpopular figures were hanging in a primavera tree at the Ajijic plaza by 8 a.m. Saturday morning. They will be  burned and exploded with fireworks in the center of town.

two-judas judas

This tradition, which began in Spain while still under Arabic Moorish rule, was popular in Mexico in the early years and was later eliminated. In recent years, it has been resurrected and is almost a form of social therapy, providing each person an opportunity to explode, burn or bury his or her own traitor, Judas, public officials or  personal demons. This riot of fireworks and explosions will be burned shortly after the Mass of Glory.

The celebration
The social portion of the night begins when Mass ends and the dances and celebrations continue until dawn.

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, 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.


4/4/2010 5:29:33 AM #

Beautifully written, Judy. Thank you for bringing to mind the true meaning of Easter and sharing these wonderful Mexican religious customs which have stood the test of time.

Happy Easter - He is Risen!

Eileen Mexico |

5/8/2010 4:57:38 PM #

Great post, sharp mind and brilliant writing. Thanks Ann

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5/11/2010 6:02:47 AM #

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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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