Oaxaca is full of tradition, folklore and culture, characteristics that have led it to be recognized on a global level for its vast offerings of festivals, hospitality and beauty. Here’s a few ways to spend your Holy Week vacations in the gorgeous state, whether you’re intrigued by Catholicism, devout or just ready to spend a few days on the beach.
Lent and Holy Week celebrations begin with the first Friday of Easter with the festival of Lord of Mercy in Templo de San Juan de Dios (Temple of St. John of God). The second Friday is the festival of the Lord of Wonders in Templo del Defense (Temple of the Defense). The fourth is the Festival del Samaritano (Festival of the Samaritan) in Oaxaca City. The fifth Friday is the traditional day to celebrate the festival of the Señor de las Peñas (Jesus of the Rocks) in Oaxaca City’s Templo de Carmen Alto, and the Festival of St. Lazarus in the town of San Antonino Castillo Velasco.
The sixth Friday of Lent, a preamble to Holy Week, is dedicated to the Virgin Dolores. In churches and chapels altars are arranged, decorated by the devout. Gladiola branches and enormous white and purple wall hangings in the hallways.
Palm Sunday is the day of primary celebration at Catedral Oaxaca, the capital’s main cathedral, prime time to wonder at the traditional, artistic displays of woven palms in church’s doors, a reference to the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem.
Holy Monday is celebrated respectfully in the town of Zaachila, with a series of activities. Holy Tuesday sees the Festival of the Three Falls of Christ in the Xochimilco neighborhood. Holy Wednesday is a good day to visit the exhibition of the standards and reliquaries of the different neighborhoods of Oaxaca City.
Holy Thursday is celebrated after 6 p.m. with the Seven Churches Visitation, in which the altars represent the last supper of Jesus and his apostles. Holy Friday is when the Procession of Silence takes place, a sorrowful walk in which condolences are given to the Virgin for the death of Jesus. Participants and crowd maintain a respectful silence as procession passes through the streets, mourning Christianity’s favorite son. The procession passes by the most important streets in the city: Andador Turístico, Xolotl, García Vigil, Morelos, ending in the Templo del Sangre de Cristo (Temple of the Blood of Christ).
On the morning of Good Friday there are ceremonies in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán and other churches, ceremonies of the Seven Words and the Descent from the Cross in other churches. In the afternoon, the procession of Dolores happens in various streets in Oaxaca City, leaving from the Temple of the Precious Blood of Christ with images and standards from the neighborhood’s history, penitent participation and the town in general. By nightfall, the celebration honoring the solitude of Mary on Holy Saturday, an image which is also venerated as the patron saint of Oaxaca, takes place in the Basilica de Solitud (Church of Solitude) and in the majority of the churches in the Central Valleys.
During Holy Week, Oaxaca shows its many different moods, from the respect and solemnity that Oaxacans bring to church to receive the ash on their foreheads and the concentration with which the Catholics show their faith during this week, to the happiness of the traditional saint days.
In addition to this festive spirit is the Oaxacan hospitality and the impressive beauty of the coast. The Oaxacan coast is one of your best options for Holy Week travel: sun, exuberant vegetation, beautiful beaches.
The Bays of Huatulco has excellent modern tourist infrastructure, a golf club on the ocean, and wealth of activities like sport fishing, rappelling, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, rafting, jet skis, horseback riding, cycling, visits to coffee farms, not to mention exquisite gastronomy and dynamic nightlife.