Holy Week is a Christian religious ceremony that is celebrated in major cities in countries around the world. It commemorates the final week of Lent, the seven days leading up to Easter Sunday, and it is a solemn period of religious ritual and celebration held in honor of the final week of the life of Christ before his Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Devotees around the world celebrate in different ways, but the places where holiday observances are the most significant are: Vatican City; the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Philippines, and various countries in South America.
Holy Week will begin Sunday March 24 and ends Sunday March 30 in 2013.
The Days of Holy Week
Holy Week begins the sixth Sunday of Lent on Palm (Passion) Sunday.
Palm Sunday marks the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. According to the story, he legendarily rode in on a donkey, and as the beast trotted through the streets, the people of Jerusalem laid palm fronds before him on the ground. Nowadays, processions of people carry palm fronds through the streets and sing celebratory songs.
Maundy Thursday is the historic evening before the death of the Christ, the night of his capture. It is also the evening when the disciples and Jesus came together for the Last Supper. It was the final meal he was to take with his friends before his imprisonment. Christians around the world commemorate this night by the taking of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, a symbolic ritual involving bread and wine – following the words of Christ during that fateful meal “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Good Friday is the most somber of all the days of Holy Week, and is typically given over to fasting and prayer. According to doctrine, the Christ was crucified on Good Friday, and laid in his tomb. Many worshippers attend mass or candlelit ceremonies to honor Christ’s death. One of the services for Good Friday is known as “Tenebrae,” or the Service of Shadows.
This most celebrated day marks the end of Lent and the beginning of triumphant celebration. For Christians, on this day Christ resurrected from the grave and reappeared to his disciples. Typically, on Easter Sunday families and friends come together for a dinner and fellowship together after having attended morning mass or service.
Holy Week Around the World
The Vatican City on the interior of Rome, Italy is the center of the Christian faith in the world. Pope Benedict XVI is the current Papal Authority and the head of the global Catholic Church. Holy Week in Rome is one of the most vibrant on earth, and millions of people flock to the city for the ceremonies of the week. The most famous event is the annual mass in Saint Peter’s Square, where the Pope will give a sermon. There are also a number of other ceremonies at various sites throughout the week including candlelit vigils and parades.
The United States
Easter in the United States has adapted to a more modern, secular environment. In addition to having weekly religious ceremonies, there is also a great deal of fun involved. For example, on easter Sunday, kids engage in Easter Egg hunts where children search for small vessels filled with chocolate or money. Family Reunions are also emphasized as well, and people fly from all over the country to be home for the holiday.
One of the most festive countries on Earth, Spain pulls out all the stops for Holy Week.
These cone shaped masks you see depicted are one of a serious of “Brotherhoods” to march during Holy Week. It is part of Semana Sana in Zemora, Spain, one of the most famous places to celebrate the events. A common feature in these parades is the almost general usage of the nazareno or penitential robe for some of the participants in the processions. The color depends on the Brotherhood. In medieval times, these outfits were worn by the penitents to show devotion, as they are still today.
In the Philippines, and other regions around the world, devotees will mimic the wounds of Christ most literally. Although the practice is condemned by the Catholic church, acts of self-flagellation and crucifixion still occur today. For them, it is a sign of true devotion that they undergo the same torments that Christ himself endured.