Easter / Semana Santa in Quito is a time of year that maintains various traditions and activities of a religious and cultural nature. There are a number of religious events that fuse old customs with new celebrations. Quito is a Catholic city that embraces these days the demonstration of its faith, with rites that ceased to be practiced in Europe and in Quito continue to be celebrated as part of our culture.
Non-believers can be part of Easter, attending events of an artistic and historical nature, as well as enjoying a unique gastronomy. The most outstanding dish is called “fanesca” which is a soup with 12 ingredients, in which different types of grains from the Andean zone are mixed with cod, to achieve an extraordinary preparation.
HOLY WEEK EVENTS
1. PALM SUNDAY PROCESSION
This celebration dates back to the arrival of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. People received him with palms and olive branches, which were symbols of peace. Adults and children gathered and he was celebrated as king of the Jews.
This reception was similar to that given to kings or heroes as recognition of their triumphs of conquest or war, with palms of the date leaves that were the synonym of victory, while for Jesus´ followers they meant martyrdom.
This gave rise to the celebration of Palm Sunday throughout the world, remembering the welcome that was given to Jesus.
In America the white palm is used, along with rosemary and basil. In Quito, due to our artisan tradition, the palm branches are woven into crosses, baskets, flowers, and butterflies. With these palm arrangements, the people of Quito welcome Jesus Christ in a religious ceremony, in which the palms are blessed. The faithful keep the palms in a special place in their homes.
In Plaza San Francisco we can see a great variety of these handcrafted elements, which symbolize the beginning of the Holy Week “Semana Mayor” in Quito.
2. PALM BRANCHES BLESSING AND FIELD MASS
At the end of the procession in Plaza de San Francisco, a mass is celebrated, attended by thousands of people, who take their palm arrangements to be blessed.
3. PROCESSION OF THE ANDAS, IN PUÉLLARO
It is a night procession that continues to be observed in Quito and takes place in very few other places in the world. In it the Passion of Christ is remembered.
Along the way, 12 stops are made in which the contents of biblical passages such as Prayer in the Garden, The Crown of Thorns, The Lord of the Column, among others, are reviewed.
4. ARRASTRE DE CAUDAS / DRAGGING OF THE TRAINS
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito is the scene of the Arrastre de Caudas. This is a Roman tradition, in which the armies of that time paid homage to one or more generals killed in battle. In this ceremony the general’s body was covered with a black cloak, and then this cloak was slipped over all the soldiers, who were in mourning dress. When the general’s cloak was draped over the entire troop, the spirit, strength and bravery of the dead general was supposed to be transmitted to the soldiers.
This is a rite with more than 500 years in Quito, in which the Catholic Church honors Jesus. In this case a cape is carried through the Cathedral to convey the virtues of Jesus Christ, dead on the cross, to all his followers.
5. TOUR OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES
This tradition includes the visit to seven churches that represent the journey that Jesus made until his arrival at Calvary. Churches adorn their altars with silverware and purple cloth. In each of the altars there is a sacred space and in the center is the ciborium with the hosts as a reminder of Jesus was taken prisoner. The churches that open their doors for this route are: La Concepción, Santa Clara, Carmen Alto, San Francisco, La Compañía, La Catedral and San Agustín.
6. PROCESSION OF LIGHT
The route begins in Basilica del Voto Nacional, led by the traditional Ecuadorian Ballet Jacchigua. The protagonists are dancers accompanied by holy souls, veronicas, cucuruchos, noisemakers, among other elements that guide pilgrims on the way to the Holy Sepulcher. The tour begins in García Moreno and Morales streets, then heading down Guayaquil street until reaching the Plaza de Santo Domingo.
7. PROCESSION JESUS DEL GRAN PODER. HISTORIC CENTER
After the celebration of the Via Crucis, one of the most important practices of prayer in the Catholic world, in which all the moments prior to the crucifixion and burial of our Lord Jesus Christ are remembered, the Franciscan community of Quito is in charge of the procession, in which thousands of believers and devotees who come annually participate as a sign of faith.
It is estimated that in recent years, around 250,000 thousand people have participated in the procession, in addition to the thousands of spectators that overflow the Historic Center. The procession begins at 12:00, in memory of the time in which Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to death. For the 2018 procession, approximately 2,000 people registered to actively participate in it. Many people join this group without prior registration.
Among those who participate are: Cucuruchos, along with Verónicas, who are the traditional figures that accompany Jesus del Gran Poder and Virgin Dolorosa on this journey, that begins and ends in San Francisco on a circuit that includes the Cuenca, Rocafuerte, Venezuela streets and to the north, Manabí, Vargas, José Friofrío, Venezuela, Manabí, García Moreno, Rocafuerte, Cuenca streets.
Cucuruchos symbolize the penitents, who, with their faces covered and dressed in purple, show their repentance and their will to change. The Verónicas are the women who remember the one who approached Jesus while going to Calvary and wiped his face covered in sweat and blood and on whose canvas the face of Jesus Christ would have been impregnated. In Quito, the Verónicas also wear purple and their faces are covered with a black veil.
The procession lasts until approximately three in the afternoon, the time of the Lord’s death, and the descent takes place at six in the afternoon, the time the day ends for the Jewish.
In many churches, the celebration of the Seven Words takes place as part of the descent ceremony, in which the priest, from the pulpit, narrates how the holy women and a group of Apostles were in charge of burying Christ.
8. PROCESSION JESÚS DEL GRAN PODER. SOUTH OF QUITO
Due to the number of people who gather in the procession in Plaza de San Francisco, a simultaneous celebration of this act is held in the southern part of the city with the massive presence of people who commemorate the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9. PROCESSION OF SILENCE
This is smaller procession. It is a neighborhood commemoration, where people dressed as Nazarenes participate. Their outfit is a hooded robe that covers almost the entire face of the characters, and there are also Verónicas.
It begins in the Santo Domingo Plaza, going through the streets: Rocafuerte, Salvador, Bolívar, Montúfar, Pereira, Flores, Sucre, García Moreno, Rocafuerte to return and finish again in Santo Domingo.
10. LA MERCED PARISH - HOLY FRIDAY- DEVILS PROCESSION
The Procession begins at 11:00 in the San Francisco neighborhood, it is the representation of the last days of Jesus. As main characters of this activity are the “holy souls”, with their turbans from 3 to 5 meters high.
The pingullero (a middle-aged musician who plays a drum and who inherited his art from parents or grandparents) accompanies the procession with funeral sounds.
At 15:00, the Ceremony of the Seven Words is celebrated. The local church is adorned with olive and rosemary branches representing Mount Calvary.
At the end of the ceremony, when Christ is dead, camaretas are thrown and devil characters take over the parish, frightening the attendees.
11. BLESSING OF FIRE IN ALANGASÍ
It is a celebration in which the community priest repeats «Glory, glory, glory», in a dark mass in a celebration of Jesus rising from the dead. In the Plaza Central a “chamiza” is lit representing hell. Hearing these words, the devils go terrified into the fire, as the representation of the triumph of good over evil.
12. PROCESSION OF THE SOLITUDE OF MARY
This procession is one of the most important, after the passion of Christ. It is a reminder of part of the journey that Christ had, that led to resurrection, and the spiritual journey of Catholics that ends on Easter Sunday.
During the procession of the solitude of Mary, Christians walk together with the Mother of God who goes to meet her Son, with the savior already risen in life and hope. Therefore, the procession of the Solitude of Mary does not mean mourning, it is a procession of hope and joy for the preparation of the Easter feast, passing from bodily death to life in the spirit.
The route goes through the streets Junín (Plaza de San Marcos), Montúfar, Chile, Av. Pichincha, Inclana, Silva, Texeira, Jijón and Junín.
13. PONTIFICAL MASS OF THE RESURECTION OF CHRIST
On this day, regular religious ceremonies are restored. Easter has ended.
During Easter, the city is covered with special decorations on the stone crosses that are in different places in the historic center, which are placed with flower arrangements to highlight this important season.
The traditionally decorated crosses are those of Churches: La Concepción, San Agustín, El Sagrario, La Catedral, La Compañía, El Carmen Alto and San Francisco.
INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF SACRED MUSIC
It is an event to enjoy sacred music, always linked to liturgical celebrations and that, year after year, is becoming more important in Quito, as part of Easter activities. In 2021 the scenarios will be the different heritage churches, chapels and cultural spaces of our city. During the previous editions, thousands of people have enjoyed concerts with renowned national and international musicians and ensembles.
THE TRADITION OF EATING FANESCA
CONCEPT: "THE SWEET SIDE OF FANESCA"
Always taking into account the sustainability of the ingredients and the Andean origin of the preparation, it is intended to show the sweet side of the fanesca. All the desserts and sweets that accompany this Quito culinary tradition will be evaluated with special emphasis.
From the colonial and republican times of Ecuador, the sweet was introduced into Ecuadorian kitchens with the arrival of sugar cane and the sweet traditions of Spanish convents. In this sense, the culinary preparations combined local products with the use of panela and sugar. As much in the gastronomic tourist offer of the city as in the kitchens of the homes, the fanesca is accompanied with diverse sweet preparations part of our history and tradition.
In the city of Quito they prepare: figs with cheese, rice pudding, sweet brown, pristiños. The traditional Black Cake on Holy Thursday, which was prepared as part of the Easter fast. Among many more, they are combined with the gastronomy of all Ecuador such as: mollo eggs, buñuelos with honey, soft cheese, chocolate, sweet squash, achogchas, chucula de Maduro, Maundy Thursday bread.
In rural areas there are deep-rooted culinary traditions, where the fanesca is still prepared in honor of Pawkar Raymi (ancestral festival of water and flowers) and sweets with the products that the earth offers at this time of flowering. It is intended to show the sweet tradition of the city of Quito at the time of Holy Week.
Temporary Holy Week tour in the Convent of the Augustinian Mothers.
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Quito Turismo - Visit Quito
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Quito Turismo - Visit Quito