As you may already be aware, there are a number of holidays and celebrations that are held sacred in Hispanic culture – much like Christmas and Easter in America. And like these two examples, many holidays and celebrations in Hispanic culture are influenced by religious beliefs. Of course, many Hispanic cultures celebrate Christmas and Easter, but they also celebrate several unique holidays, including Semana Santa and Dia de las Muertas.
Hispanic holidays are often celebrated with specific rituals or rights. For example, Día de Todos Santos, or All Souls Day, and Dia de las Muertas or the Day of the Dead, are very important to most families. Each of these holidays represents a time to mourn or celebrate the life of family members who have already passed. All Souls Day is a chance for families and friends to pay respect to the souls of children who have already passed on. The belief is that the children return from the heavens to visit on this one special day. Family members prepare for their visits by placing sugary candies and treats on alters built on the children’s graves. These treats are generally shaped like skeletons or skulls, symbolizing death.
On the Day of the Dead, family and friends of departed souls once again gather at the graveside and spend all night paying tribute to the departed. They once again build special alters to give tribute, but during this celebration it is generally tequila that is left behind. However, many families also bring the deceased person’s favorite food or drink to leave behind. Flowers and baked goods are also an important part of the celebration – many families leave a special Aztec flower that’s thought to be the flower of death on the grave after the celebration. Others choose to leave behind special pastries shaped into symbols of death.
Semana Santa is a livelier event held during holy week (the period from Palm Sunday up to the day of Easter). In fact, Semana Santa literally translates to mean “holy week”. Semana Santa is celebrated in many different ways throughout the Hispanic culture, most commonly including lively festivals and parades. In some areas, a parade of wooden statues made to depict the life of Jesus Christ is held. Each statue is considered sacred, and is kept throughout the year by a specific brotherhood or group. These statues are brought out once a year during the parade to celebrate the sacred event.
There are many other sacred holidays and events, including the Day of the Kings, which celebrates the three kings bringing gifts to Jesus Christ on his birth. Most of these events are marked by some sort of parade or event, and most local businesses shut down in tribute. Many Hispanic people find these holidays to be more than just a way to celebrate an event – they’re also a way to celebrate many of the foundations of Hispanic culture. In addition, some people believe they are blessed by God based on their participation in these events, and that not participating can bring bad luck or a curse.