Learning about Holy Week Faith Traditions in Mexico

Editor’s note: Leslie Hawthorne Klingler is the new editor of Rejoice! (see bottom for more info) devotional magazine, working this year from Mexico. Her experiences there help educate all of us on how traditions for Easter and other Christian holidays differ around the world.Hawthorne Klingler 2014 Semana Santa 2 copy

My family is currently living in Querétaro, Mexico, while my husband directs a study program here. Having lived in Spanish and Latin American contexts before, I knew that my Easter celebration this year would be different than our typical celebration in the States.

As expected, the Evangelical congregation we are attending emphasized on Resurrection Sunday the fact that we are people of life and therefore no longer adulate death “as do others in these days.” To create distance from congregants’ pre-conversion lives, non-Catholic Christians rarely mark Easter with anything special. I have heard from the pulpit that “every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday” and is celebrated as such, eliminating the need to make an idol out of the Easter holiday.

Hawthorne Klingler 2014 Semana Santa 3 copyNonetheless, Catholic observances dominate Querétaro during Holy Week, and I am glad I got to witness them. The silent procession we attended in no way glorified death* but rather reminded participants of the sorrow of it. As I watched cloaked penitents silently wind their way through Querétaro’s narrow streets and observed them carrying their crosses and heavy images of the weeping Virgin and her suffering Son, I cried with them over our sin and loss. Yes, I knew that Sunday was coming, but I also realized that on Good Friday it was so very dark.

Hawthorne Klingler 2014 Semana Santa 4 copyOn the real Good Friday of Jesus’ death, anyone sustaining any form of hope was nursing a pipe dream, wanting something impossible to take place. As the disciples faced the unbearable fact that their Messiah was dead, only the unimaginable could make a real difference. They couldn’t fathom it until after it happened.

Holy Week in Mexico vividly reminded me that as we carry on what many consider a pipe dream—anticipation of a Kingdom in its fullness–only the shattered darkness of Good Friday gives us real hope. (Check the MennoMedia Facebook page for a video of one somber procession.)


* The “exploding Judas” tradition may perhaps be considered an exception to the somber Lenten portrayal of death. During Holy Week, paper mache effigies of Judas (or, what I preferred to tell my kids, the devil that overtook Judas) are sold in the streets, and on the night of Holy Saturday they are burned like fireworks. Much to the delight of my children, the “exploding Judas” certainly made a statement!

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Leslie Hawthorne Klingler, of Wheaton, Illinois, began January 1, 2014, as part-time editor for Rejoice! devotioHawthorneKlinger-Leslienal magazine serving both Mennonite and Mennonite Brethren readers (Kindred Press is copublisher). Klingler has an MA in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, has worked as communications manager for Christian nonprofit Lifewater International, and runs her own Wordkiln, a creative media business. She and her husband, Tim, have three school-age children.  She replaced editor J Janzen.