Culture & Immersion

Gringo Guide Semana Santa in Medellin

As a Westerner I had come across this week about as well informed as a born again baptist at a buddhist temple. Being an agnostic of many years, I have trouble remembering when Easter is. You know that day as a child when you’re parents hid candy filled eggs around the house and you and your siblings were tasked with finding and eating them before they rot. The only time of year you see those pink and yellow marshmallow peeps, the ones you threw up after eating more than 5 of. Here in Medellin, I experienced none of that, except what in my point of view appeared to be a combination of college spring break and catholic church. With that said I present the Gringo Guide Semana Santa edition…


I have never lived in a Latin American country during Semana Santa (“Holy week”) so certainly would I go about assuming that it was just another holiday here (though oh how I wish I had a Gringo Guide Semana Santa). Latin American’s take Semana Santa super serious. As a child I let myself be forced to go church every Sunday, I thought that was super serious of me then. Yet when I found out that the whole city stops and everyone who has money, evacuates to the coast, I was on my way to confusion.

In Latin America Semana Santa starts on the Sunday before Easter. For those of you un-edu-macated in Semana Santa, here’s how I perceived each day in terms of *Holiness*.

Gringo Guide Semana Santa Week Holiness Chart

So let’s run through what you might notice as a Gringo each day.

Palm Sunday – Very Holy

Celebrated as the day Jesus enters Jerusalem.

To me the only difference I could tell was that there was a big soccer game and the city was dressed in soccer jerseys, which really isn’t that different from most Sundays. Otherwise the big roads looked deserted as it hit me that half of the city had already left the Aburrá Valley that Medellin resides in.

I didn’t notice any processions or anything too different which was probably because everybody was not on the streets but in church, or out of town. Sunday night my Venezuelan roommates had a BBQ, that’s pretty holy, right? And lucky for the rest of the city, nobody had to work the next day (unless you’re job is milking money from people on vacation).


Holy Monday – Holy

Celebrated for the anointing of Jesus at Lazarus’ house

Monday was a day off for everyone which I later found out was because of St. Joseph’s Day. Felt like all the other holidays to me. Went to work at my co-working space where all my other non-Latin American coworkers were going about their Monday like any other. Then the Colombian laziness in me took over and I took the rest of the day off…


Holy Tuesday – Not as Holy as Monday

Celebrated as the day Jesus anticipates the betrayal of Judas

This day resembled a day where half the city is in the middle of their vacation while the other half has to work today and tomorrow. If you need to get any real work done this week then Tuesday and Wednesday are the days most stores/shops will be open.


Holy Wednesday – Not as Holy as Tuesday

Celebrated as the day Judas betrays Jesus

And that’s why you have to work today! Work, work work! After work everyone will go out to party! Less holy + no work tomorrow = more party.


Holy Thursday – Very Holy again

Celebrated as the day of the last dinner

According to Gringo Guide Semana Santa this day is holy alright! Again all of Colombia is back on vacation. Just like Monday, the public places will be flooded with all of the people still in town. Keep in mind the difference between the prior night. More holy = less party…


Holy Friday – Super Holy

Celebrated as the day Jesus is crucified

If yesterday wasn’t holy enough for you, wait till you see the processions happening all over the city. That morning I tried to buy weed from Barrio Antioquia, you know, the place where everyone gets their green. Needless to say even Colombian drug dealers take this day off. I left for home empty handed passing by several processions along the way. Don’t expect anything to be open most of Friday.


Holy Saturday – Super Holy

Celebrated as the day of the Easter Vigil

I had trouble discerning which day was holier, Friday or Saturday. The biggest difference I saw were the bonfires being set up in front of every church. Expect a lot of holy people dressed up fancily on the streets at around 9pm. Don’t expect Poblado to be in party mode.


Easter Sunday – Meh Holy

The day Jesus is said to have resurrected. Not really celebrated here… 

So confused… Gringo Guide Semana Santa reports that this is a Sunday like most others except that my family in Europe and United States were lighting my phone up wishing me Easter wishes. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary here on this day, except that tomorrow was a work day…


Gringo Guide Semana Santa Conlusion

I’m still confused, still piecing this together, but now I know more after the fact. I’d love to hear if anyone had a very different experience.