Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Semana Santa begins: what to expect during Mexico’s Easter break

Holy Week (Semana Santa), the week leading into Easter Sunday, is an important time of year in Mexico. Visitors to the country might be surprised to discover that many businesses and public institutions will be closed on Thursday April 6 and Friday April 7 — Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and that Mexicans will be celebrating not only during Semana Santa but the week starting after Easter Sunday, known as pascua.

Although not government-sanctioned holidays, many Mexicans traditionally take at least Holy Thursday and Good Friday off, giving themselves an unofficial puente (long weekend). As many Mexicans will take these days off anyway, many businesses simply close for the long weekend — maybe going on vacation themselves. You may find a sign on your favorite restaurant or local store saying “closed for Semana Santa.” Don’t expect them to be open until at least Easter Monday. 

A beach in Cancun
With schools out for two weeks, many families look to spend time making the most of their vacations. (Elizabeth Ruiz/Cuartoscuro)

Even many banks have announced that they will be closed this year on April 6 and 7. ATMs will remain in service, however.

As usual, the Education Ministry (SEP) has given students a two-week break, which already started Monday and lasts through April 14. (Some private schools not affiliated with SEP may follow an alternative calendar.) This means families who can afford to take off Holy Week or even both weeks for beach vacation or travel abroad. 

Spending Holy Week with family is also traditional, and families often travel around the country to do so, meaning that this time of year sees high volumes of traffic on roads and at airports, so plan accordingly.

If you beat the traffic, however, you can look forward to a country that is fully in the holiday spirit, with beaches, monuments and parks likely to be full of vacationers looking to make the most of a rare week off work.

Youth getting ready for a Holy Week procession dressed as Roman soldier
A young man prepares to play an ancient Roman soldier in a Holy Week procession later this week in Itzapalapa, Mexico City. The neighborhood will mark its 180th consecutive iteration of the event this week. (Graciela Lopez Herrera/Cuartoscuro)

Semana Santa can also be a perfect time to visit a normally busy place, like Mexico City for example — exactly because residents have left the megalopolis.

Whether you stay at home or travel yourself, wherever you are, Holy Week festivities will be taking place across the country in your area. They started already on Sunday, in fact, which was Palm Sunday.

According to Catholic tradition, the day marks Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, and so in town squares all over Mexico, there are processions recreating this biblical event, and vendors often sell palm fronds and all sorts of food, souvenirs and toys to visiting tourists or people-watching locals. 

While many Mexicans will spend Semana Santa reclining on a beach, for those foreigners looking to immerse themselves in Mexican culture, there is a lot to discover this week, as the nation celebrates.

From elaborate processions reenacting the Stations of the Cross to the devout making intense public displays of faith, to fireworks fueling sputtering castillos and “exploding” Judases, there will likely be something interesting to see in your town square on many days of Holy Week. 

Normal hours for most businesses and institutions will resume on Easter Monday, April 10.

With reports from Infobae and El Financiero

Have something to say? Paid Subscribers get all access to make & read comments.
5 human bones, many of them femurs, in a cardboard box. They're among many ancient artifacts found on the island located in Lake Patzcuaro, Michoacan.

Ancient artifacts found near island of Janitzio in Lake Pátzcuaro

A cleanup effort of drought-stricken Lake Pátzcuaro led to the discovery of a pre-Columbian canoe, human remains and other ancient artifacts.
Tropical Storm One projection Cyclone Albert

Potential tropical cyclone approaches northeastern coast of Mexico

The potential tropical cyclone could become the first named storm of the hurricane season by Wednesday.
Worried guests gather around a hot tub in Puerto Peñasco

Wife of US tourist who died in Puerto Peñasco hot tub electrocution files US $1M suit

When she saw her husband struggling under the water, Zambrano jumped in to help, only to be electrocuted herself.