Semana Santa, the holy Easter week, is one of the most important festivities for Catholic Peruvians. They take Easter very seriously and in Arequipa there was an endless supply of processions and other Easter related events in the run-up to the big day. For me though it wasn’t these events which made Easter so special – although they were all very interesting (see below) – but because I was able to celebrate it with the most gorgeous children imaginable, plus my lovely new colleagues.

I am currently volunteering for a local NGO in Arequipa, Peru, called HOOP (Helping Overcome Obstacles Peru). HOOP empowers disadvantaged children and their families in one of Arequipa’s most impoverished shanty towns through an after school program where they teach English, health classes and more.

Semana santa peru HOOP

The HOOP school in Flora Tristan with the beautiful Misti Volcano in the background

To reward the children for their hard work at school and regular attendance, HOOP organized a special day out for Easter. We bussed around 60 children and parents to downtown Arequipa to the beautiful Selva Alegre (Happy Forest) park, where we organized games, an Easter egg hunt, face painting, a picnic lunch, a clown, and of course an Easter Bunny.

semana santa girl with egg

semana santa hoop party clown

semana santa bunny and boy

It was magical watching the children and parents enjoy themselves so much. Most families from the Flora Tristan community in the outskirts of Arequipa live below the poverty line but despite how hard their circumstances are, they always have the most infectious smiles on their faces. It is easy to love your job when you are working with such people and it is because of moments like this I prefer spending more time in a place and connecting with local people through volunteer placements rather than just travelling from place to place to tick off the bucket list – because so often the best travel memories are not about famous sights and tourist attractions but about the members of the local communities you connect with during your travels.

semana santa hoop party children laughing

semana santa hoop party mother and child

semana santa hoop party girl with facepaint

The Easter party was obviously hard to top, but it was also fascinating to witness how different the Easter traditions are here in Peru compared to the ones I am used to from Germany. Why don’t we have the tradition in Germany to eat nothing but desserts and sweets on Maundy Thursday for example?

During Semana Santa Arequipa was packed with Peruvian tourists as it is well-known for its many seasonal events. There was a different event every night in the lead up to Easter including processions, masses, and even a free performance of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar in the beautiful main plaza.

semana santa pery palm thursday procession

A Palm Sunday procession in front of Arequipa’s Basilica Cathedral

semana santa peru palm leaves

Offerings for the altar

semana santa peru palm thursday

semana santa peru jesus statue 2

Each night a different church carries their Jesus and Maria statues through town in a procession followed by hundreds of people.

semana santa peru maria statue

semana santa peru hooded procession

semana santa peru musical

The last supper scene during the musical Jesus Christ Superstar

So this Easter was certainly very different to my usual Easter celebrations back in Europe, but it was a very special Easter indeed. On that note Happy Easter to you all! How did you celebrate Easter this year if at all? Please do tell me in the comments section below.

 

About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

20 Thoughts on “A very special Easter in Peru

  1. It sounds like the perfect way to celebrate Easter! I agree … so much of what makes travel amazing is the people we meet. It’s refreshing to read about travels that revolve more around experiencing and making a difference in a community rather than simply visiting tourists sites. I really enjoyed this!
    justine recently posted…Gado-Gado: Indonesia’s Vegetarian Dream FoodMy Profile

    • Thank you so much Justine. That really means a lot to me. I am glad you like the post and you are right – it is the local people that we meet during our travels that matter too. I think a lot of travellers often don’t have a chance to interact with them, which is a great shame.
      tammyonthemove recently posted…A very special Easter in PeruMy Profile

  2. What a fantastic story, and how fulfilling as well as learning about other cultural traditions.
    Corinne recently posted…R is for Russia (A-Z Blogging Challenge)My Profile

  3. Wow, it’s so different than the Easter we often celebrate in Poland. Kids look so adorable. Do they (locals) go to the church in the morning before having an Easter breakfast?
    Agness recently posted…12 French Sweets You Must Try Before You DieMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on April 22, 2014 at 8:38 pm said:

      Yes, I believe they have an early morning mass on Easter Sunday, Agness. They also go to 12 different churches for prayers on Maundy Thursday though. They take it all really seriously!

  4. Looks like you had a great Easter! Beautiful pictures! We celebrated Easter in Guatemala a couple of years ago. Was a bit similar to the one you had in Peru. This year we spent the Easter in Bangkok, celebrating Songkran. That was crazy! Like a war of water in the streets. Got wet everytime we went out of our hotel. Great fun! 🙂
    Maria from Nerd Nomads recently posted…Would You Like A Cup of Sri Lankan Tea?My Profile

  5. Wow, the view from the school. That’s such an amazing picture. Great capture, guys.
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted…Lago TauritoMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on April 25, 2014 at 9:30 am said:

      I know, it is a spectacular view, isn’t it? Often the poorest places have the best views, just like the favelas in Rio.

  6. The procession looks great. It also sounds as though you’ve done a very worthwhile thing by making Easter so memorable for this poor children. They look very happy and as though they are having a lot of fun.
    The Guy recently posted…Beware Of The ESTA ScamMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on April 25, 2014 at 9:32 am said:

      It was nice to reward them for all of their hard work at school. That will encourage them to keep coming to school in the future as well hopefully.

  7. Their Easter observance is really nice.
    David Ryan recently posted…The CalculatrMy Profile

  8. I’m also in Peru! I volunteered in Paracas during the Holy Week! Megan’s coming in a few weeks. Maybe we should meet up!
    Trisha Velarmino recently posted…My Volunteer Work in Paracas, Peru: BartendingMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on May 2, 2014 at 8:08 am said:

      Small world! Sure, are you headed to Arequipa at any stage? Will be here until the end of May at least.

  9. What a special and rewarding way to spend the holiday. The smiles on those kids’ faces is priceless!
    Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans recently posted…Local Scene & International Flavors at Street Food Thursday in BerlinMy Profile

  10. Great post, thanks for sharing!

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