You may have heard of a time during the spring in Mexico named Semana Santa. This two-week holiday falls over Easter time. The first week, Holy Week, begins on Palm Sunday and ends Easter Saturday, the week after is Pascua, which starts with Easter Sunday and ends the Saturday after.
Semana Santa is probably the most celebrated holiday in the Mexican calendar. You’ll find that during this time there are lots of celebrations and festivities to be enjoyed. Schools and businesses often close during this time and many Mexican families go on vacations, which is why you may find it feels busier in the coastal town of Playa del Carmen over the Easter period.
Mexico Semana Santa Traditions
In most larger towns and cities, Semana Santa celebrations include a dramatic performance of the crucifixion of Jesus. The actors feel honored to put on this reenactment and take their roles seriously.
In different parts of Mexico you’ll find unique ways that people celebrate:
In the devout Taxco region, some devoted followers prove their faith by inflicting pain on themselves with whips or by carrying large, heavy objects. This tradition dates back to over 500 years and was introduced by the Spanish.
In San Miguel de Allende, during Holy Week they have the tradition of “The Burning of Judases”. Taken from another age-old tradition when the Spanish would burn little wooden Judas figurines, Mexicans made their own dolls to burn as Judases. This evolved into the current ritual where paper mache figures are made that resemble public figures and politicians who may not be in favor! They are then blown up with fireworks as part of the festivities.
In many regions of Mexico, people show their devotion by visiting twelve different churches in just one day – one church for each of the 12 apostles.
Tourism in the Riviera Maya during Semana Santa
A lot of Mexican families take time to vacation during the Semana Santa break, often taking trips to the coast, with the Riviera May being a favorite destination. These weeks can be difficult to make plans for – especially last minute – as most beach destinations are usually booked up well in advance.
You’ll also find that pricing can be much higher during these weeks. This can include tours and accommodation rates.
The beaches will be busier during this time too, as well as the restaurants and bars in the area.
The churches in the town will hold a special Easter mass, contact them for the times and language they will be conducted in.
There is often a festival at the town plaza, with street food, dancing, and other events.
You can also visit Valladolid where the oldest Roman Catholic Church holds a service for Easter. Merida, in the Yucatan, is also a great place to visit for Easter cultural activities in Mexico.
Top Tips for Semana Santa in Playa del Carmen
- Allow extra time for traveling on the roads too, the amount of traffic will increase with more jams expected than usual.
- Book hotels, tours, and accommodations far in advance. During this time it will be difficult or expensive to find a place to stay.
- Plan ahead. Even grocery stores will be busy, write your list and stock up early on the things you’ll need to buy for the week.
- Make reservations. Especially if you are a larger group, book ahead in restaurants to ensure they will have a table for you.
- Be aware of the crowds! The streets will be packed, especially Playa’s 5th Avenue! Make plans to meet friends at arranged points and be careful when walking through the throes of people.