Easter Around the World: Guatemala

As Easter is approaching, I started wondering how it was celebrated differently throughout the world. I know every church seems to have its own way of doing it as well as every family, but I wondered what traditions were out there. I have close friends who are Greek Americans and gone through many Easter seasons with them. At some point I will share some of their traditions.

The first thing I discovered is that the different celebrations seem to also incorporate Holy Week. Holy Week is the week starting with Palm Sunday (one week before Easter) until Easter. The special days differ a bit but the major ones include Palm Sunday (the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem), Good Friday (the day Jesus died), and Easter Sunday (the day Jesus rose from death).

Flag of Guatemala
Today we are focusing on Easter and Holy Week in Guatemala. Guatemala is a country in Central America. It borders Mexico, El Salvador, Bolivia and Honduras as well as the  Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Guatemala has had many different types of government including Mayan rule. It also had a Civil War being fought from 1960 to 1996. Since the Civil War it has had economic growth and elected a new president in 2011. Nearly all of its residents are Christian with only 1% following the indigenous Mayan faith. During Colonial times Roman Catholic was the official religion, but in recent years Protestant religions have been popular with nearly one third of residents being Protestant. (Source)


The first thing that peaked my interest in Easter in Guatemala was a book we found at the library called Sawdust Carpets by Amelia Lau Carling. The book is written by a Chinese woman who grew up in Guatemala. One of her fondest childhood memories was the sawdust carpets or Alfombras de Acerrin made for the parades re-enacting Holy Week or the procesiones. The most famous of these occur in Antigua, Guatemala. The author remembers a trip to visit her aunt, uncle and cousins that lived in Antigua one Semana Santa (Holy Week). In the story she describes seeing the neighbors making the beautiful colorful sawdust carpets and even helping a neighbor with one. The neighbor gives the leftover materials to the children so they can make their own. They design and make one just as the procession is beginning. The young narrator tries to stand in the way of the procession so their special carpet will not be ruined. The neighbor steps in to explain how each carpet is an offering to life. They then watch the procession and see the different floats with statues portraying the story of Holy Week. There are bands who follow each float playing music to set the mood of the float. Overall the day is exciting and sad all rolled into one which seems like a wonderful description of Holy Week to me.

Corpus Christi alfombras 9
Source: By Municipio de Patzún (Municipalidad de Patzún)
 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We also researched some more of these sawdust carpets by reading about Semana Santa in the Fiesta! series Guatemala. This book describes Holy Week or Easter as the most colorful and biggest fiesta in Guatemala with Antigua having the best festival. During this time planting is done and Indians ask their gods to give them a good harvest. The week however is very solemn. The stores close and there are long religious rituals. Antigua was the capital when the Spaniards ruled and the traditions date back to that time, so this is why it has the biggest festival.

To make the carpets, local people make big stencils of birds, flowers, and religious symbols. They first lay down plain sawdust onto the wet ground. Then they use their stencils and colored sawdust to make the designs. They also embellish the carpets with flowers, pine needles, and fruit. To reach the middle of the designs without messing up what is already done they have raised pieces of wood to walk upon. These are made before Good Friday. The procession beings very early. Riders, dressed as Roman soldiers call for the death sentence of Jesus. Floats carry the figures of the Virgin Mary and Saint John as well as the effigy of Jesus. The men who pull the Christ floats are allowed to walk on the stenciled shapes on the street. They wear purple until 3 p.m., the time Jesus died on the cross. They carriers then change their clothes to black until Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday is a day of joy with music and dance. (Source: Fiesta! Guatemala by Grolier International)

Dyed Sawdust Carpet (Alfombra de Aserrin) 3
Source: GuateRob at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

The largest float requires 80 men to carry it. They are switched every 10 to 15 minutes so the procession can require more than 2500 carriers. Women carry the float with the Virgin Mary on it. It is an honor to be a carrier and often it is passed down through generation to generation of a family. Incense is lite before the procession starts and the streets fill with spectators as well as carriers and smoke and scent from the incense. (Source)

Semana Santa Antigua Guatemala
Source: By Jialiang Gao (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

The entire procession sounds like a perfect way to celebrate Easter. I hope some day to actually see it. I wanted to do a craft with the idea of sawdust carpets using colored sand, but we have not had time yet. If we do make one, I will be sure to post pictures here. How do you celebrate Easter? What are some of your family's traditions?

For a great first hand experience of the flower carpets in Antigua, check out World Travel Family's post Flower Carpets in Antigua Guatemala.

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Sharing Saturday 14-13

Thank you to everyone who shared with us last week and to those who went to visit the many amazing posts! I know I was inspired by the many that were shared! Here are a few of my favorites. I have had a crazy week and am getting ready to leave for a religious retreat. I cannot wait for a break. Here are a few of my favorites. Can you tell I can't wait for warmer weather?

Friday Fruit Exploration: Pineapple

I have been a bit absent this week. It has been a bit crazy with helping a friend with a sick child, having a sick child and life in general. I am looking forward to escaping the chaos later today as I join some women from my church and head a women's retreat in Maine. I am only going for one night (and one full day) since I need to be back at church on Sunday and Hazel is having a hard time with me being gone already.

This week we explored a pineapple!! Hazel only recently started liking pineapples. (She began liking fresh pineapple when we cut one up to make the Peruvian Purple Corn Pudding.)  I had bought our pineapple to explore but we kept not having time, so it was getting a bit old. However that made it sweeter. Now pineapple has a huge amount of vitamin C. One cup or 165 grams is a serving size. In a serving you get 79.8 mg of vitamin C or 131% of the recommended daily allowance. A serving of pineapple has no fat, 1 gram of protein and 22 grams of total carbohydrates, of which 16 grams are sugar and 2 are dietary fiber. A serving also has 82 calories. (Source) Pineapples are packed with many other vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. They also have bromelain which suppresses coughs and loosens mucus. Bromelain also helps your digestive system. A cup of pineapple also gives you 73% of the manganese your body needs in a day. Manganese is needed for your body to build bones and connective tissues. Pineapples are known to prevent macular degeneration due to the beta carotene they possess. Macular degeneration is the primary cause of vision loss in adults. Pineapples are known to be anti-inflammatory and help alleviate arthritis as well as carpal tunnel syndrome and gout. (Source)

For our exploration, we looked at the pineapple with the magnifying glass. Hazel then drew a picture in her fruit journal. While she was drawing, I cut the pineapple.

After cutting the top off, we looked at the inside. As you can see, we had a few bad spots due to it being so ripe.  After exploring the inside a bit, I cut the pineapple and we enjoyed some of it and saved some for later. Hazel has been enjoying it with her lunches all week. 


Pineapples are originally native to South America. Christopher Columbus brought back the pineapple to Europe to show it as one of the treasures of the new world. It got its name due to the outside's resemblance to a pine cone. Eventually the pineapple made its way to New England where it became the symbol of a sailor being home from foreign ports and ready to welcome visitors. Perhaps this is where it became known as the symbol of hospitality. George Washington grew them in his hot house at Mount Vernon. (Source)

At the library I could not find a book specifically on pineapples, but I did find Yes, We Have Bananas: Fruits from Shrubs and Vines by Meredith Sayles Hughes. It has a good deal of information on pineapples as well as other fruits. We also found the following stories that include something about pineapples or pineapple food in them.

Thus far we have only read Georgia In Hawaii: When Georgia O'Keeffe Painted What She Pleased by Amy Novesky. It is the tale of Georgia O'Keeffe going to Hawaii at the invitation of Dole. Since Dole would not let her visit where she wanted to on their plantation she decided to go off on her own and paint what she wanted and not the pineapple they wanted. It is a lovely introduction to Georgia O'Keeffe and Hazel really enjoyed the book and began painting what she wanted and every day things like Georgia. (I shared some of her pictures in our Women's History Month post.)

I also found many cookbooks with recipes for pineapple dishes in them. There are many good look recipes in there. We have not tried any of the pineapple recipes in these books, but there were not many good books to share with you on pineapples, so if you are looking for some different recipes, give these a try.

For our craft we made pine cone pineapples. I saw them a few places on line, but apparently did not mark where I saw it first. We used green tissue paper for the leaves and just glued them in. I found the leaves worked better when I took the time to cut and shape them, but we had fun with it.

For more on fruit and pineapples check out: