Semana Santa 2016 officially begins Sunday, March 20 and runs through Easter Sunday on March 27. Unofficially, since this is one of the most popular outdoor activity weekends in the Mexican holiday calendar, the holiday will begin on Friday, March 19th and many employees incorporate a week of vacation time to extend the holiday into the following week. This year the Semana Santa week also includes the federal holiday of Benito Juarez Birthday on March 21. Schools will be closed the entire week.
Semana Santa or Holy Week in Mexico or Easter Week, as it is known to North Americas, is a Catholic tradition. Beginning with Palm Sunday (Mar 20) and ending with Pasqua (Easter Sunday) March 27 it is one of the most important religious holidays after Christmas in Mexico.
Semana Santa celebrates the last days of the Christ's life. Pasqua (Easter) is the celebration of the Christ's Resurrection. It is also the end of the sacrifices of Lent. Although Mexico is almost 90 percent Catholic much of the religious intent of the holiday have fallen by the wayside.
The holiday is very popular for outdoor activities as weather across Mexico is very accommodating for outdoor activities. Camping and beach going with the family are popular and those locations will be crowded.
With traditional celebrations in many cities all over Mexico and most people on vacation, it is both a time of reflection on their religion as well as a time to fiesta. In some locales, there are still religious processions, vigils, re-enactments of the Crucifixion of Christ and celebrating his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
There are many other traditions practiced all over Mexico such as the creating of Palm crosses, the celebration of Good Friday mass, the burning of Judas in effigy for betraying Christ.
Another tradition is to make colored eggs, much as we do in the States. But here they are blown out and filled with confetti, they are called "cascarones".
Much of Baja will really take 10 days to 2 weeks for vacations, especially the government employees, making it difficult to complete business during those days. If you are doing banking or interacting with government offices be sure to confirm their holiday schedule. Businesses around Mexico can be short staffed, as it is a popular time of year for vacations. Like gringos, they tie their allotted vacation time in with existing holidays for a longer break.
With Semana Santa falling late this year, the weather will be outstanding. The Sea of Cortez is warming up enough for even locals to get their shins wet. Fishing is on the horizon and temperatures will be very conducive to outdoor recreation in Baja.
Multi-day fiestas beach camping and outings to Todos Santos, San Antonio and San Bartolo. Picnics at the beach are always a popular Baja way to enjoy the holidays and many camp overnight on the beaches.
Watch for Sobriety Checkpoints
Semana Santa is the comparable holiday to the "4th of July" for outdoor activities and the use of vacation time in conjunction with holidays for workers. It also shares the equal reputation when it comes to highway fatalities and accidents. In an effort to combat this, 2005 saw a dramatic increase in visibility of law enforcement on the highways. Between La Paz and Cabo San Lucas I encountered 11 Federal Hwy Patrol cars including a sobriety checkpoint and a radar trap. So, stay off the bottle and the accelerator over the holidays.
It is a time for the Mexican families to gather from all over. It is one of the most popular times for families to return to their home cities. In Baja California, many will go camping in the mountains, beaches or desert. Since this time of vacation is concurrent with Spring break in many Universities around the world many Mexican students will add to the Spring Break festivities in cities like Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada.
Semana Santa is a great weekend for fiesta and fiestas are a great place for cervesa. Drunk driving is now under more scrutiny from local police and sobriety checkpoints have begun to pop up over the holidays. Drivers should exercise extra caution when driving during Semana Santa and avoid driving after sunset.