Easter Sunday in Peru
Easter Sunday in Peru
A Tour of Ayacucho and Arequipa
Easter Sunday in Peru is subdued in comparison to the grander celebrations and processions of Semana Santa, or Holy Week, which takes place the week before Easter Sunday. Most families attend a procession, mass, and then quietly spend the rest of the time at home with each other. Like many travelers in Peru note, the Semana Sata celebration in Peru a far cry from the commercialized Easter of chocolate bunnies and frantic egg hunts found in the U.S. and Europe. In Peru, Easter Sunday is a time to spend quietly with family.
Arequipa, about a fourteen hour bus ride to the south of Cusco, is known as the White City for the snow-capped volcanoes and mountains surrounding it. Besides its fame as the site of the discovery of the Ice Maiden, or the Juanita Mummy, Arequipa boasts a unique twist on the Easter Sunday tradition. Most of the major celebrations during Semana Santa don’t actually take place in Arequipa, but in the small town of Paucarpata nearby the city. There Catholic and Andean traditions mix in a unique local iteration of Holy Week. The main difference in how Arequipa celebrates Easter Sunday, is the burning of an effigy of Judas as symbolic of the act of justice and punishment. After stark event, so different from most other Easter Sunday observances in Peru, there is a fireworks show that lights up the whole city.
Like in Cusco, Arequipa also boasts a wide variety of traditional plates and gastronomy for Semana Santa. In general the city is famous for their chupe de camarones and ocopa, as well as rocoto relleno which is a hot pepper stuffed with a delicious filling of finely chopped meat and veggies simmered together inside the hot pepper.
Many consider the celebrations of Semana Santa and Easter in Ayacucho as the finest in all of Peru and attract tourists from around the country.
Observances actually begin on the Friday before Palm Sunday, that is, two Fridays before Easter Sunday. On this Friday the city re-enacts the encounter between Jesus and his mother, the Virgin Dolorosa. That Sunday is Palm Sunday, which like in many cities across the world, is celebrated in Ayacucho with palms and mules that wander about the city.
Good Friday is a subdued event in Ayacucho, as fitting what it remembers, the crucifixion of Christ. That Saturday, however, is celebrated with good cheer and merriment as an open air market invites visitors to peruse the crafts, food and music that gather a large crowd. Saturday is a large party as locals take time to enjoy the natural beauty of the mountains around Ayacucho.
Easter Sunday in Ayacucho is a massive event of joyous religious rites for Christ’s resurrection. Locals celebrate with song, music, prayers and fireworks. The party lasts all night and another round of fireworks at dawn tops off the celebrations of Holy Week.
Whether you choose to spend Semana Santa and Easter Sunday in Cusco, Ayacucho, Arequipa, or another city in Peru, you won’t want to miss out on the processions and traditional food that mark this week. Just remember that while many churches and cathedrals will have their doors open for most of the week, be respectful. It might be a great time to get a free sneak peak of the interior architecture, but most devote followers don’t appreciate tourists taking advantage of the opportunity. Leave your church touring for another time and take advantage of all the sights going on outside, you won’t want to miss them.
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