Easter in Peru is certainly a very important event, filled with fervour (Catholic religion). We follow the tradition through many generations and will often celebrate with family and friends, some taking the opportunity to travel within Peru while others remain at home.
One of the rituals Peruvians practice on Holy Thursday is visiting 7 churches, this is a way of representing the station of the cross. Primarily heading to Lima’s historic centre as there are no other capitals in South America with so many churches. You can start your journey by visiting the main Cathedral – a baroque building which dates from the 17th century, just a block away you come across San Francisco church and monastery, this is one of my favourite churches, because I made my First Holy Communion on its main gilded altar. The catacombs are the main attraction of this church – these were originally cemeteries which were built beneath the churches and interconnect between them. You can continue with your journey in the historic centre where you will find Santo Domingo Convent, Nazarenas church, Santa Rosa de Lima church, San Pedro – a Jesuit church with a grand gilded altar and numerous stunning side altars and Basilica Nuestra Señora de la Merced. Some people carry empty water bottles and collect holy water from the 7 churches.
Both Thursday and Friday are considered national holidays in Peru and Peruvians tend to visit other places within the country, therefore booking in advance is highly recommended.
Good Friday is a time for reflection and mourning. Many people will go to church after lunch as there are many processions taking place in the centre of Lima, this tradition dates back to 1541. It is customary to eat fish on Good Friday and there are several gastronomic festivals taking place in the surrounding areas.
Glory Saturday, as it is known, is a mourning day designed to meditate. Easter Sunday or day of Resurrection is the time to celebrate with friends and family, we normally gather for a special meal and alcohol can be consumed unlike Friday.
Easter in Ayacucho:
This is generally regarded as one of the most auspicious religious festivals in Latin America and definitely the most important in the Ayacucho region. It is often compared to Sevilla (Spain’s religious influence still lives on in Peru) for the majestic display of processions, the colourful clothing and numerous people who congregate from different parts of the country.
The ritual begins on the Friday before Palm Sunday with the re-enactment of Jesus entering the city riding on a donkey. Everyone waits with excitement the procession of Jesus, The Lady of the Sorrows, St John and St Mary Magdalene on Wednesday through the streets. On Holy Thursday people visit the 7 churches Ayacucho has 33 churches, each one of them representing a year in Jesus Christ’s life. On Good Friday in most parishes, the priest delivers a three-hour sermon on the importance of compassion. In the evening the main procession departs from Santo Domingo church, Jesus is carried in a beautifully decorated float lit with candles, the procession goes through streets covered by flower petals and is accompanied by masses of followers holding candles, chanting songs and praying. Glory Saturday starts at 0900 am with ringing of bells of the 33 parishes announcing the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Later in the day the entire population of the city gets involved in the festivities. There are local music events, craft fairs and gastronomic festivals of course. The long week concludes with a party till the early hours of the morning and a stunning display of fireworks.