Holy Week & Easter in Argentina

Someone has kidnapped the Easter Bunny. I'm convinced he's been taken for ransom because I haven't seen hide nor hair of him here in Argentina. Did I mention that the kidnapper made off with all the Easter baskets, fake grass and plastic eggs too?

Easter in Argentina is primarily a religious celebration, and as such, many of the non-religious traditions that we associate with Easter in the United States are notably absent here. There are no Easter egg hunts, no baskets filled to overflowing with candy, and no hippity-hoppity Easter Bunny.

But none of this means that Argentina is devoid of tradition at Easter. Here are a few of the Argentine customs associated with Holy Week and Easter.

Semana Santa (Holy Week)

Every year during Holy Week, thousands of Argentines make a pilgrimage to the city of Tandil, situated about two hours north of Necochea. The Vía Crucis, which features 14 groupings of stone sculptures depicting the Stations of the Cross, attracts the faithful who look to worship and meditate upon the sufferings and sacrifice of Jesus.

Christ on the Cross, Vía Crucis, Tandil, Argentina by Celina Ortelli on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license]

The Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent is not widely observed, though most Argentines refrain from eating meat on the days leading up to Easter, beginning with Holy Thursday. Empanadas de vigilia (empanadas that feature non-meat fillings such as tuna or vegetables) figure prominently on the menu at this time along with fish dishes.

In Argentina, Palm Sunday is called Domingo de Ramos (Branch Sunday), and olive branches are blessed and distributed by the priests instead of palm fronds.

Viernes Santo (Good Friday) is a national holiday in Argentina, and most businesses are closed until Easter Monday. In fact, a number of shops will close their doors one day earlier on Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday) to make a four-day weekend of the holiday. The traditional meal served on Viernes Santo is a stew that includes bacalao (salt cod). Daniel's family typically prepares bacalao con garbanzos (salt cod with chickpeas).

La Pascua/Domingo de Resurrección (Easter Sunday)

On Easter Day, most families gather to celebrate with an asado, with lamb as a popular choice. After the Easter meal, Argentines tuck into a large, hollow chocolate egg (huevo de Pascua) or small Kinder eggs (hollow chocolate eggs with tiny candies or toys inside). The rosca de Pascua, a bread ring topped with sprinkles, candied fruits, chocolate drizzles and/or pastry cream, is also very traditional.

What the Argentines lack in terms of candy and visits with the Easter Bunny at the mall, they make up for in time spent with family and an appreciation for the religious meaning of the celebration. ¡Felices Pascuas!

[Photo credit: Celina Ortelli]

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