Holy Week in Ecuador – The Week that gathers Culture, History and Faith

There are certain moments in history that are climax points in people and specially in countries. One of those crucial moments in history for Ecuador is clearly its colonization from the Spaniards. Despite of all of the story itself that involved many violence and suffering, we must not forget about all of the good things and traces that this historical moment left us. Religious value through roman catholicism is one of the most important things that Ecuador as well as the entire continent has been left with since its colonization and independence.

Roman catholicism still remains as the most popular and common religion for the country and the entire continent. Apart from the faith and the drive that is what moves and motivates Ecuadorian everyday, this religion has added such a rich and cultural value to the country. For instance, the amount of churches found in the city and in the downtown area is impressive. Each and every one of them is characterized by different tiny details that make it stand out from one another. Just look at La Compania, one of the most beautiful churches in our historical downtown city of Quito. This church is covered with golden leaf entirely. Then we have the cathedral of La Basilica which unlike La Compania amazes you through its gothic architecture and influences from a French architect that resembled his views onto this church.

However, architecture and beautiful infrastructure is not the only thing that Quito, Ecuador was left with. Many traditions have grown and been developed from this religion. Semana Santa (Holy Week) for instance is one of the most important festivities that is celebrated in the country and without a doubt it is one of the most beautiful ones. Since we are so close to it, we thought creating a post on its importance and its value is worth sharing.

Holy Week starts seven days before easter Sunday and it celebrates the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In order to commemorate this, the entire country is overwhelmed by pilmigrages, parades, among others. In order to give you a full overview of the wonderful experience that it is to live Holy Week in Ecuador, this little post will explain it chronologically.

The week starts off after Palm Sunday and the next upcoming three days are focused on Jesus’ anointment, the prediction of his death and the betrayal by Judas. In these days it is where the country sleeps and you will find many advocates in churches accompanying Jesus with his mourning. Following these first three days, we come to Thursday where we celebrate Jesus’ last supper. On this day Ecuadorians decide to visit their loved ones who have passed away with offerings. One of the most beautiful traditions that many families still keep is the offering of bread that has been baked specially for the occasion. It is through these little details that Ecuadorians want to show respect and love for those who have departed physically but remained in our hearts. After they have given their offerings, the churches of Quito and Ecuador open their doors with their altars full of lighted candles and sometimes even outside of the churches. All visitors are more than recommended to do a nightwalk on this very special day to witness the devotion of the citizens who walk around the streets of Quito.

Following Jesus’ last supper we have Good Friday. This is a solemn holiday for the entire country as it is the day where all Ecuadorians commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion. In order to do so, the famous Via Crucis is done and takes over the entire city, but mainly the historic downtown area. If you are a visitor or a tourist on this day and look out the window you will be engulfed by the purple color, and pointed hoods. What do both the color and the pointy attire represent? The cucuruchos. They are probably, if not the most, important figure during this Holy Week. People dress up as them as a way to mourn Jesus’ death and show penitence for all of the sins that they have committed. In some neighborhoods this sign of showing regret and penitence is portrayed in a different way where there are some people during the pilgrimage that decide to hurt themselves slightly to show their grief. Witnessing these parades and Via Crucis is probably one of the most beautiful things to do in Ecuador during these dates because you will not only evidence culture and a vibrancy of colors but the devotion from the citizens that brings them together.

Saturday and Sunday are holy days for the entire country. Masses take place across the entire country. During this weekend you will find churches full of devotes and if you want to participate in one of the masses, it is more than granted that you will enjoy a beautiful sermon accompanied by melodic chantments.

Apart from the religious celebrations, we cannot let our appetite aside and for that reason there is a certain plate created by Ecuadorians to celebrate the entire week and that is the exquisite and famous “Fanesca”. If you are anywhere in Ecuador, you will see every single street offering a delicious fanesca and because it is so worth trying we will tell you its importance and meaning so that you enjoy it to the fullest.

The fanesca is a special dish that represents Jesus’ apostles. This soup made of twelve native Ecuadorian ingredients serves as a symbol of Jesus’ journey. Its contundency and flavour is obtained thanks to its preparation that can even take up to seven days itself. The main features of this soup are the grains and what is special is that each and everyone is peeled off, at least that is how many families used to do it when it first started. Some of the ingredients of this delicious fanesca are: lentils, chochos (andean superfood), corn, pumpkin, rice, habas, cheese, avocado and more. All of them need to be slowly cooked and some of them even separately to ensure that the broth gives the grains that special flavour that is so undistinguishable.

Clearly Holy Week is such a beautiful holiday and time in Ecuador where one can benefit from a past full of history and value through the different celebrations, parades and even culinary delicacies.

March 11, 2019