Semana Santa – a serious and sombre week

Weeks before Semana Santa (Easter) there was a build up of expectation and activity, mostly in the form of mournful processions in the very wee hours of the morning at dawn. Every church in each neighborhood has its own effigy of Jesus, which was carried through the streets numerous times a week. The process of grieving Christ’s death had begun.

The frequency of these processions increased dramatically on Semana Santa weekend when there were a few varieties a day.

On our street there was a very special procession on Easter Friday which entailled carrying a glass “coffin” with a very realistic Jesus inside. No irreverence intended, but it really looked like something out of Snow White. Our neighbors across the road had laid out a table with flowers and a pan with burning incense. When the bearers got to their house, the coffin was laid out on the table and the flowers were put above. Always accompanied by the sad low tune of the tuba and drums. The usual DJ music at the corner house ceased and in general people stayed inside more as a show of grief and respect to the occasion. We saw a few impressive processions, most memorably one with all the bearers of the effigy dressed in long white robes with white hoods that had slits for their eyes (no they were not the KKK) followed by a small truck that carried a noisy generator to supply energy for the fluorescent lights on either side of the effigy of Jesus. A trumpet and drummer ran ahead to announce the arrival of the procession. I witnessed an extreme cultural clash as this procession approached outside Kellys Bar – an American bar which was blaring “born to be wild” and momentarily drowned out the sound of the trumpet and drum. We watched our last procession as we drove out of Granada towards Volcano Mombacho, and groups were making their way to the cemetry for the finale.

One does eventually have to take a break from sad tunes and processions. Granadinos take to the beaches and eat the Semana Santa specialty dessert, fruit cooked with the usual heaps of sugar creating a jam like sauce. A neighbor around the corner brought me a small plate of the goodies she had made so that we could sample them.

Mass was held at a variety of churches at a variety of times – one was at eleven at night. Of course we did miss most of those early morning processions due to the hour, although we heard them very loud and clear from the comfort of our bed. When one of my neighbors told me that there would be two big processions on our street, both at five, I naturally assumed it was five in the afternoon. Wrong assumption: Most of the street turned out, dressed up and in some cases in religious costumes at 5am.

We finally knew that Semana Santa was over when the corner music was back on full blast and a general feeling of “the grieving is done” swept over the neighborhood.

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