Haven’t experienced Easter in Ecuador yet? Boy are you in for a treat. The Easter holiday week in Ecuador is a top tourist destination, and for good reason.
With a predominately Catholic population (roughly 95%), Christian holidays in Ecuador have no shortage of traditions and celebrations. In Ecuador, Easter time is referred to as “Santa Semana” (Holy Week). So how do Ecuadorians typically celebrate Easter? It depends on the city you are in, but one thing’s for sure: you won’t find chocolate bunnies or colored eggs. Instead, elaborate displays of Roman Catholic traditions, reenactments of Christ’s crucifixion, parades and traditional foods will fill the city for the week-long celebration. Some Ecuadorians choose to take this entire week off to travel, participate in the variety of celebrations and spend time with their family.
- Palm Sunday – On Palm Sunday, special masses are held in most of the churches and cathedrals. The week’s first ‘processions’ begin, complete with palm branches. Other solemn rituals are held to commemorate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. In Quito, San Francisco Square hosts a massive celebration not to be missed.
- Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday – Don’t be surprised to see random parades and processions, see overcrowded churches, or see various events and booths around town. Youth groups, church groups, restaurants and government entities all enjoy hosting special events each day this week.
- Holy Thursday – In Cuenca, a parade called “El Via Crucis” starts at San Blas and goes to El Centro and ends at the Cathedral. Over 600 people participate with thousands of onlookers. Particpatns reenact moments of Jesus’s life before his crucifixion. Also on Thursday is the “La visita de las 7 Iglesias” where families visit 7 different cathedrals throughout the city.
- Good Friday - Expect more parades throughout Ecuadorian cities. Most establishments are closed on Good Friday, a national holiday, save for cathedrals, of course.
- Holy Saturday (or Saturday of Glory) - The Saturday before Easter more celebrations will ensue, a day in which many families spend time together at home and attend special church masses.
- Easter Sunday – Solemn masses are attended by families throughout Ecuador starting early in the morning and lasting late into the night. In Quito, Santa Semana goes out with a “ding” – that is, with a procession of chapel bells being rung simultaneously throughout the capital.
Depending on which chef is preparing, you may also find hard boiled eggs, beans, cheese, peanuts, plantains, bananas, chunks of bread, and big slices of avocado, paired with a small empanada. Be sure to ask around for which restaurant offers the best fanesca, as it is an annual local treat your palate must experience.