|The Holy Procession
Easter is a time of the year celebrated by people throughout the world. Although
the methods of celebrating vary in different countries and cultures, what is
common in each is the religious observance. In San Pedro, Easter is considered
the most holy time of the year.
Ash Wednesday marks the
beginning of the Lent season for Catholics on the island and is their time of
preparation to receive Jesus Christ. Many observe this period as a time of
abstinence, a time of sacrifice (either by fasting or giving up something one
enjoys), and a time to make acts of charity. Every Friday during Lent, children
and adults congregate at the Roman Catholic Church to re-enact the Stations of
the Cross (Christ's journey to Mount Calvary where he was crucified).
The Sunday before the resurrection of Jesus Christ is
observed as Palm Sunday. This is the day when Jesus Christ triumphantly entered
into Jerusalem and was welcomed with palm leaves placed as a pathway for him to
walk through on. To commemorate this day, pieces of palm are blessed and handed
out to Catholic congregations who make crosses out of them. A procession around
the church is also performed. The Thursday before Easter Sunday is known as Holy
Thursday and a very symbolic mass is held. Twelve members of the community
participate in the "Washing of Feet" ceremony in commemoration of The Last
Supper. As the ceremony implies, the priest washes the participants' feet as
Christ did during The Last Supper. After the ceremony, an all-night vigil is
observed at the church so it is not abandoned, as a symbol of the followers
accompanying Jesus Christ when he was taken prisoner.
Good Friday is one of the most religious days observed in San Pedro. In days
gone by, families would remain at home and prepare for the religious services.
Children, in particular, were urged to stay home, asked not to argue or fight
with their siblings and were even discouraged from swimming in the sea. It was
the belief of their ancestors that something tragic would happen to those who
disobeyed or behaved "rudely" on Good Friday. The common myth used to discourage
the children from going to swim was that they would turn into mermaids/mermen.
This practice seemed to work as the village was transformed into a "ghost town"
on this specific day.
At midday on Good Friday, the
"Celebration of the Seven Words" would commence. This is a two and a half hour
service concentrating on readings of the seven times Christ spoke before he
died. This is followed by a Eucharistic Service and the Adoration of the Cross
before the Holy Procession begins at about 5:30 p.m. The Holy Procession was and
still is the largest annual procession held in San Pedro. The entire
congregation is divided into groups led first by children and followed by
teenage girls, women and lastly, the men. The young ladies take turns carrying a
statue of the Virgin Mary while the men carry a casket (symbolizing the death of
Christ) as hymns and prayers are chanted throughout the main streets of
On Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil Mass
is held in the evening. This, too, is very symbolic as a bonfire is lit outside
the church from where the Cirio Pascual (Easter Candle) is lit and taken inside
the church. The lights inside the church are shut off and the Easter Candle is
used to light the individual candles of those that gather inside. Water is also
blessed and all the Catholic followers renew their baptismal vows.
On Easter Sunday, Catholics rejoice in the resurrection
of Jesus Christ by attending mass either in English in the morning or Spanish in
the evening. The celebration continues on Easter Monday as other services are
Although during the Easter holidays, the locals
welcome the many visitors from Belize and abroad who come here to enjoy their
vacation, to the religious people of San Pedro, this period has a different
meaning. It is the time when they proclaim their faith and a time when they
strengthen their ties with God. Easter is indeed an important celebration in the
lives of all the faithful in "Our Community."