Easter in Ecuador: Semana Santa

Quito Easter Parade
Quito Easter Parade

No chocolate bunnies here. Instead, the Roman Catholics of Ecuador get down all week. Starting on Palm Sunday (the week before Easter), Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and let’s not forget the Easter Sunday all provide reason to celebrate. Though technically only Holy Saturday gets official national holiday status.

Either way, many Ecuadorians will take the whole week off. Festivities really get kickin’ on Good Friday with a colorful parade depicting Jesus’ last days. Some carry large crosses or religious statues en route, others enact Romans whipping penitents, everyone in the parades are decked out in purple tunics with cone-shaped hoods. The town shuts down and the churches open up.

All week long, though most notably on Friday, Ecuador serves up a traditional soup called Fanescafranesca. Franesca fits the bill for “no meat on Fridays” (all throughout lent). The dish consists of 12 different grains, representing Jesus’ 12 disciples, squash, salt cod – an option, slices of hard boiled eggs, chunks of bananas, fried bread, cheese, even peanuts! This hearty meal is a satisfying treat to all those devotees that fasted all week.

On Saturday people fill the streets, music fills the air, and celebration takes over as family and friends gather together. Sunday brings traditional church services and I would think some much-needed recuperation time.

Keep in mind that many Ecuadorians travel during this time and you will want to plan ahead if you will be in country, as hotels can fill quickly.

To those that celebrate, Happy Easter!

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