It is no secret that Latin American countries take the celebration of Holy Week seriously. OK, it’s actually Terry who knew (honestly, I had no idea; but I am learning just how ethnocentric I am). One night while lying in bed he showed me pictures of street carpets (again, had no idea what that was) from some stranger’s instagram account. And they were gorgeous! He explained to me how Antigua, Guatemala is THE place to go to experience Lent and all things leading up to Pascua (Easter). (Too many parentheses in this paragraph? :D)
We decided it may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance that we are two hours from this iconic celebration, and we needed to make it a priority. So we booked an AirBnB and loaded up the family for an overnighter. I am so glad we did!
The fifth Sunday of Lent is a big deal. There were SO many people, cars, and vendors. Antigua is a charming city protected by UNESCO, so it has an old-world feel. The procession we were able to enjoy began at 7:00 a.m. and was scheduled to go until 1:30 in the morning. It was the distance of a marathon, with those participating shouldering a heavy float. For more details, visit https://www.viaventure.com/holy-week-lent-antigua-simply-spectacular/.
We spent the first 3o minutes in the city driving around looking for a place to park. There were many signs leading to parking lots, but lot after lot after lot was full. We were finally able to locate one at the edge of town in a beautiful wedding venue. From there, we walked to the city square where we had the kids enjoy a snack while we (Terry) figured out what to do. While there, we discovered that some of the alfrombras (street carpets) were being built right there.
I must say the alfombras were my favorite. Amazing artists were dedicating their time, energy, sleep, talents to build works of art that would be destroyed in seconds. If you think Thanksgiving dinner is bad, that’s got nothing on this. To show their devotion to Christ and to express gratitude for His suffering, people used natural materials (sawdust, flowers, wheat, coffee beans, fruit, vegetables, etc.) to create beautiful carpets for the procession to walk on. Their time and efforts were their sacrifice.
But I digress…we walked to check out the alfombras being created around the square.
There was this one, which had obviously started hours before we got there; and they were hours from completing it. The colors were brilliant.
Right next to the large alfombra was this smaller one, being created by a little family. I loved it as well and loved seeing the mom and children working together to present this to their Savior.
While the kids and I watched these being made, Terry decided to go for a little run around the streets to determine the best course of action. He came back and told us about some amazing carpets that were done just a couple streets down. While taking a potty break, the street we were going to was closed off as the procession made its way down it. We were disappointed to miss the carpets but were excited to see the procession so early in the day.
Though we could see the procession just a bit off into the distance, it took FOREVER to make it to the corner we were standing on. And we were so late to the game that we were behind rows of people taller than my children. So Terry took turns lifting each one up onto his shoulders to get a glimpse of the massive float. I so wish I would have gotten a picture of Sabrina on his shoulder–now that’s a memory worth keeping! I couldn’t see much, but there was music and smoke and Christ carrying his cross. And it was impressive.
Terry then took out the map and found a street we could go to that was ahead of the procession. We decided that we had seen the procession, so we would see more alfombras, check out some vigils inside churches, then head home.
It was fun to see all of the walking vendors as we walked toward the street. Mobile stores, each of them packing up their wares after each passing of the procession to move onto another busy location. I love having these experiences that are SO different from anything I can get at home.
When we got to the street, we noticed that it wasn’t too busy. We tried to guess how long it would be before the procession came. We figured we were about four blocks away, so it would take maybe an hour. So we went against our best judgment and decided to stay put and get some front-row seats and actually see the procession.
We have obviously never been to one of these processions before. It took nearly THREE hours for the procession to make it to us. Remember how I have five children, the youngest being three? Not ideal! We snacked, we rested, we chased shade, we sat and sat and sat, and we bought hats!
But we also got to see an alfombra built from beginning to end. About 15 minutes after we decided to stay, the store owners next to us started bringing out materials to build their carpet. That was fun! Here it is.
And although the carpets on this street weren’t as grand as some of the others, I still loved how unique and vibrant and beautiful they all were.
I absolutely think it was worth waiting for. There were Roman soldiers, art depicting the final hours of Christ’s life, more Roman soldiers, so much incense, the Christ platform, a band, the Mary platform, pomp and circumstance, and I loved experiencing it.
My pictures don’t do this justice. This platform is HEAVY! And the men carrying it were really struggling. You could see the pain etched in their faces. Yet they were required to move very very slowly, to imitate how difficult it was for Jesus to bear His cross after all he had endured. Blake and Miri really struggled to understand why they would pay for the “privilege” of enduring this for hours. It was difficult for us to explain the symbolism of their sacrifice. But it touched me to watch them lay this at the feet of their Savior in this meaningful tradition.
All in all, it was a memorable day. It was not a kid-friendly day, and as usual my little ones endured it with grace and good attitudes. Only my oldest complained a bit. We ended the day back at the city square, in the shade, resting before heading home. The church across from us had a concert, Miri made a friend at the fountain, and I sat relishing the memories made and being in awe of this amazing life and family I have been given. That is a true statement wherever I am, but sometimes I am more aware of it than others. It was a good day.