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Lent in Mexico

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Woven palm crosses

Woven palm crosses for Palm Sunday

© Suzanne Barbezat

Lent in Mexico:

After the revelry of Carnival, comes the sober time of Lent. Lent is the period of 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. The word for Lent in Spanish is Cuaresma, which comes from the word cuarenta, meaning forty, because Lent lasts for forty days (plus six Sundays which are not counted). For Christians this is traditionally a time of sobriety and abstinence meant to correspond to the time Jesus spent in the wilderness. Many people give up something for Lent. In Mexico it is customary to abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent.

Mexican Food for Lent:

Some foods are traditionally associated with Lent in Mexico. It is very common to eat seafood on Fridays - fish and shrimp are both very popular. Another food commonly eaten during Lent is empanadas de vigilia. These empanadas are made with a flour pastry shell and stuffed with vegetables or seafood. A dessert that is often served during this time of year is capirotada, a kind of Mexican bread pudding. The ingredients in capirotada are believed to represent the suffering of Christ on the cross (the bread symbolizes his body, the syrup is his blood, the cloves are the nails on the cross, and the melted cheese represents the shroud.

Read more about Mexican Food for Lent from the blog Mexico Cooks!

Dates of Lent:

The dates of Lent vary from year to year. The dates of Lent for the coming years are:

  • 2013 - February 13 to March 30
  • 2014 - March 5 to April 19
  • 2015 - February 18 to April 4
  • 2016 - February 10 to March 26

Ash Wednesday:

The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday. On this day people go to church and the priest draws the sign of the cross in ashes on their forehead. This is a sign of repentance and is meant to remind people of their mortality. In Mexico, many Catholics leave the ashes on their foreheads all day as a sign of humility.

The Six Fridays of Lent:

In some regions of Mexico there are special celebrations on each Friday during Lent. For example, in Oaxaca, the fourth Friday of Lent is the Día de la Samaritana, the fifth Friday of Lent is celebrated in nearby Etla at the Señor de las Peñas Church. The custom is similar in Taxco, where there is a celebration on each of the Fridays during Lent in a different nearby village.

The sixth and final Friday of Lent is known as Viernes de Dolores, "Friday of Sorrows." This is a day of devotion to the Virgin Mary, with particular attention to her pain and suffering at the loss of her son. Altars are set up in churches and private homes in honor of the Virgin of Sorrows.

Palm Sunday:

Palm Sunday, known in Mexico as Domingo de Ramos is one week before Easter, and is the official start of Holy Week. On this day, Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem is commemorated. Artisans set up stalls outside of churches to sell intricately woven palms in the shape of crosses and other designs. In some places there are processions recreating Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem.

Next: Read about Holy Week in Mexico

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