Lent in Antigua

Antigua, Guatemala has the biggest Semana Santa celebration in the world. It all begins on ash Wednesday with the blessing of the faithful with a cross of ash upon their foreheads. From then on there are events each day for the 40 days leading up to the culminating events of holy week and Easter Sunday.

Some of the most dramatic events are the processions which occur each Sunday of lent. Each one begins at one of catholic churches where on the Friday before, a vigil is held, where a large float depicting Jesus, Mary and other disciples is put out on display. On Sunday the float is carried out of the church by men in purple robes and carried all day around the city to the sound of somber band music and shrouded in incense. Sometimes these floats require 100 men to carry them and the procession can last for 12 or more hours.


Creating a carpet from sawdust

The most famous part of the processions are the beautiful carpets created along the processions route. The carpets are made from a variety of materials including colored saw dust or sand, flowers,  vegetables, fruits or other plants. They often dipict the crucifixion or other religous scenes. Many are amazingly ornate, colorful and creative. Often families, organizations or church groups work on them together and they can take many hours to complete. 


A finished carpet


The start of the procession

Before the float goes over the carpets each one is blessed.


The float walks over the carpet

This is the most amazing part- each one of those amazing carpets is destroyed as the float is carried over it. The main float is carried over first then the women’s float with Mary on top, followed by the music.


The float

As the procession continues on it leaves a path of destruction in its wake. The carpets become nothing more than ruined fruit, trampled flowers and piles of sand. Soon after the procession a large truck comes by and picks up the debris, leaving nothing but a few grains of colored sand on the street.


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