Easter in Colombia

The view from Juancho's finca.
Juancho, getting ready to start a chant in the club.
Juancho, getting ready to start a chant in the club.

They pray. They party. That’s what happens in Colombia during Semana Santa, or Holy Week as it translates to English.

It starts on the Wednesday leading up to Easter Sunday, when lots of people leave for their fincas. Thursday and Friday are holidays. There are events on both days, especially Good Friday. Many businesses, especially bars, are closed.

We didn’t mind. My friend Juancho and I left Wednesday evening for his finca in Carmen del Viboral, a city of 45,000 a little more than an hour from Medellín.

Of course we went to see our friend Flaco — if his name sounds familiar, I’ve mentioned him before. He owns a small bar near the town square.

Then we went to other places at nearby Parque Alhambra, places such as Forbidden, Rainforest and Tropical. The night would end with a small gathering at Juancho’s finca, a nice vacation home that sits atop a hill, overlooking the town.

Hanging out with Juancho always means laughs, sometimes from two chants that he has made famous. If he’s entering a room, he’ll start saying, “Juan-cho! Juan-cho! Juan-cho!” until everyone joins in then takes a shot, often Guaro.

The other chant comes from the common phrase, “Ooohhhh yeah!” In Colombia, Juancho changed it to Spanish, with the paisa accent, so when we’re hanging out with him we’ll often say, “Oooooohhhh, sí!”

It was a lot of fun, but by Friday we needed a break. We hung out at the finca the entire day, sleeping for most of it, other than the quick stop that my friend Andres and I made into town, to eat lunch. It was a small place for which the name escapes me; I was in recovery mode.

But I know I had trucha (trout) with salad, french fries and yucca, and it was pretty good, the filling lunch that I needed.

I noticed a lot of other people were having trucha, and at least a few were thinking about it because they asked me if I liked it. I didn’t think much about why this was the case. I ordered trucha because I felt like eating trucha and the price was right.

I did not think, while sitting there half asleep, that it was Good Friday, that fish replaces other meats with your meal.

I’m aware of this — I remember going to Catholic church as a kid. But we didn’t go often because my family was not big on religion.

I didn’t go to church during Semana Santa either but I enjoyed watching people celebrate the event. There were people walking through the streets of Carmen, some carrying candles, others wearing robes, all of them celebrating their spirituality.

The view from Juancho's finca.
The view from Juancho’s finca.

A particularly large group passed the restaurant where we ate on Friday. There were so many people, some of them walked through the outdoor tables where we were seated, a sea of them spilling over from the narrow street.

“It seems like almost the whole town is passing by,” Andres said.

“Maybe,” I said.

After a day of resting, everyone left the finca, and Juancho and I returned to Medellín, him to work, me to work and study. We went back on Saturday night for one more night out, this time with a couple more friends joining us.

We hit the same places…first Flaco’s, then Parque Alhambra, finally back to the finca with about 15 people in tow. We sat around drinking and talking, some of us until the sun started coming up.

I finally got to bed around 6 a.m. But I paced myself all night, mixing in a lot of water, so there was no guayabo (hangover) on Easter Sunday.

We went to the town, first to eat then again to walk around, before heading back to Medellín to retire from a festive week.

Oooooohhhh, sí!

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  1. Amazing. I never knew that in Columbia they call it Semana Santa too. Same as here. But here we start it during Monday’s. Always the first week of April. How amazing is it, right? And during Friday, we have the procession of the saints. That’s the awaited time of all. The beauty of every caro (float like) are very stunning. And of course, the most handsome is ours. Nazareth White. 🙂

  2. Semana Santa is the week where we should remember how Christ saved us from all our sins.. But now, people are considering it as a long week vacation. Some have forgotten what is the real meaning of “Semana Santa”, instead of going to church and pray, they go to bars and party all night..

    • i think people do both. there’s an old post on medellin living that is only about the religious part of the holiday. i wanted to show the other side. i did enjoy watching the people walk through the town. it was a beautiful event.

  3. Semana Santa! this is the day that God died and take away all our sins. But in other countries it is know as Long Friday, Silent Friday or Holy Friday. Anyway, I liked reading your post here. Thanks

  4. Semana Santa or Holy week is the perfect timing for us to repent and renew out relationship with the Lord… I never fail to follow the traditions in celebrating Holy week more especial during Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday and Easter Sunday.

    • i admire your commitment. i think if church were a bigger tradition in my family when i was growing up, i be going often now. but i guess i’m more spiritual than religious. i believe in god; i just don’t go to church.

  5. Holy week is well celebrated in our place. This is the season where everyone is following the traditions of feeling the love of God by reminding us how great His love is by giving His only Son to die for us to save our souls. So, we always make sure to have this chance to renew ourselves for the better, and renew our love and relationship with God our creator.

    • i am grateful that his son died for our sins. but, as i said in the post, going to church was not something my family did often, so i don’t go often now either.

  6. Great example of holiday free time enjoyed and spent relaxing with friends for literally hours leading into days , exactly the natural antidote to stress from busy work lives. it’s the difference of free time in the states usually some 45 min experience if you come from my town so close in ways to nyc ,to outside of USA a life style more inclusive of REAL down time to hopefully just enough play to recharge.