Semana Santa – A Different Easter

As I eat my lunch, a salad consisting of fresh local grown lettuce and organic tomatoes, I decided to write this blog mostly for my friends and family back in the states. Holy Week, Semana Santa, is over now. It is the same days as Easter Week in the states, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. For some schools in the US it is Spring Break.
This year, being our first year in Panama, Easter Week was somewhat different compared to my experiences as I lived in California. As a child, I looked forward to a week off from school, Easter egg hunts at the park or in the back yard, coloring hard-boiled eggs, Easter baskets full of chocolate bunnies and eggs hidden on Easter morning somewhere in the house, the traditional Easter ham for dinner with all the family gathered to celebrate, dressing up in a new frilly dress and hat for church. Some of these traditions continued with my own children. As an adult, I usually would sing in the choir for Easter services, so there would be many practices to attend. For a few years way back in the 80’s with one church in Long Beach, CA, we would perform huge 2-hour cantatas for two to four performances at church and other venues including Terminal Island Federal Prison; so I was very busy. Easter Sunday dinners changed into brunches at a local restaurant with other family members after church. As my children grew up and had their own families, my last few Easters were spent with my husband and a few friends. I was still part of a church choir singing at 3-4 services, so sometimes we would visit our adult children and the grandkids afterwards.

Here in Panama, many in the city flee for the country and the beaches to spend time with their families. Usually starting Thursday, there is a big exodus from Panama City on the Pan-American Hwy; the traffic being much like that on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in the states. On Easter Sunday, the traffic going back into the city is heavy as well even though they temporarily added one of the outgoing lanes on the other side of the road for the incoming traffic. But we stayed home this past weekend, so did not have to deal with that. We definitely noticed a lot more people and cars around the pueblo.

Most government offices, banks, and other businesses close on Friday through Monday of Easter weekend, some all week. Unlike the U.S, there is no Easter Bunny or Easter Egg hunts. Panama is mostly a Catholic country, and they celebrate Holy Week with reverence in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection. There are processionals down the streets, although I did not observe any here in Pedasí only because I was not aware as to when they started or it was late at night. They were very much like the ones on Dia de Santa Catalina with small carts decorated with religious statues lit up with lights powered by a small generator and pulled by people slowly walking through the neighborhoods. I saw them sitting in front of the Catholic Church Saturday night as I walked by, but I did not have my camera; so sorry, no pics.

Something both Mikkel and I enjoyed was Good Friday. For 24 hours, everyone is quiet; no loud music, no liquor is sold anywhere, most every store and restaurant is closed in observance. It was so peaceful in the barrio, a good time to reflect on our blessings. Could anyone imagine if that happened in the U.S.? Anyway, at 12 midnight on Saturday, the music can be turned up again and the partying can begin. But for the most part, at least around my home, the weekend was pretty quiet other than the occasional music coming from the neighborhood cantina and firecrackers going off, but we have pretty much gotten used to that as it occurs quite often throughout the year.

On Easter Sunday, having not found a local church to call home yet, Mikkel and I got up early that morning and went out to our favorite beach spot to celebrate our first Easter here. No singing or church service, but definitely thanksgiving for God’s beauty and grace. Afterwards at home, no family gathering, no Easter ham (fresh-caught red snapper instead), but just a quiet afternoon and evening together. Yes, Easter was different, but we have learned to embrace the expected differences of the first year of our Third Life in Pedasí.


The end of Holy Week also marks the end of the dry season. On Easter Sunday we had blue skies with a few white fluffy clouds. Today it rained in Panama City, but only an overcast of grey clouds covered the sky in Pedasí as it has off and on for the last couple of weeks. The Azuero Peninsula is the dryer part of the country, so the rain may be later in coming. But it will eventually come, bringing plenty of rain to make everything green again.

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