Explore El Salvador

For Tourists, By Travellers

Semana Santa - Easter Week

Teenagers with brightly stained hands haul 5-gallon buckets and burlap sacks each filled with a different color of the rainbow early on the morning of Good Friday.  Ready for a long day of work creating alfombras (literally, “carpets”), these youths have spent weeks preparing the colors, the designs and the natural materials for this traditional Holy Week event. 

This scene plays out throughout Latin America during Easter Week - young adults spend the daylight hours of Good Friday on their hands and knees, carefully spreading colored salt and sawdust over stretches of streets in artistic recreations of scenes from the Passion, Death or Resurrection of Christ.  In the late afternoon on the same day, the Easter processions will walk over them, honoring all of their hard work.

For those in need of a brief religious recap of Easter Week, it begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday and commemorates the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.   Holy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter Sunday) is the day to celebrate the Eucharist.  Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus, and the parades of huge wooden platforms that depict scenes from Holy Week are carried through the streets by dozens of men working together to carry and move them from one church to another.  On Saturday, Christ is entombed and the Easter Vigil is held that night until Easter Sunday, when He is resurrected.

You need no religious background to participate in the festivities; we highly recommend getting to the nearest town on Friday to watch the making of the “alfombras” in the streets and possibly even helping the kids out. 

To find some truly unique Easter celebrations, look no further than Sonsonate and Izalco.  These two indigenous strongholds managed to outsmart the colonial Spaniards and incorporated ideas and beliefs from their indigenous heritage right into the Easter celebrations.  Here you’ll find unique processions, but no carpets.  The signs and symbolism of the indigenous are well-hidden from ignorant eyes, but if you ask some of the locals they will point out the significance of certain flowers and plants, and the symbology and numerology among other things.