How To Celebrate Easter Like A Bolivian: 5 Oddly Fun Traditions That Don’t Involve Chocolate!

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Wait, what? Easter without chocolate bunnies and those tasty mini eggs?

‘Tis true. Not all celebrations end with a sugar-high and bursting jeans.

When I was in South America, I stumbled upon one of the most popular Easter celebrations down there, Semana Santa, translated as Holy Week.

One of the largest Semana Santa celebrations takes place in the quaint town of Copacabana. This city sits close to the Peruvian border and alongside the famous Lake Titicaca (the highest navigable lake in the world, with an elevation of 3,812 metres (12,507 ft)).

It might be a tiny blip on the map, but the people of Bolivia travel from all over the Country to celebrate at this holy spot.

Here’s a quick overview of what a sans-chocolate Easter celebration in Copacabana looks like…

You Exercise!!!

Approximately 1 week before Easter Sunday, you’ll find thousands of devoted pilgrims making the 150KM trek to Copacabana from La Paz, the capital city in Bolivia. They plan their trek so they arrive in Copacabana on Good Friday.

Even if they did eat chocolate, they wouldn’t need to worry about the extra calories. 150KM is no joke!

copacabana pilgrimage

You Camp On The Beach

Copacabana has a population of 6000 people, but during Semana Santa, this number shoots through the roof. Accommodation for this celebration books up well in advance, but this doesn’t stop the locals from living it up.

The celebration spills onto the streets and the beaches, with locals pitching tents anywhere they can find space.


You Decorate & Bless Your Car

One of the weekly traditions that is highlighted at this time of year is the ritual known as La Benedicion de Movilidades, or Blessing of Vehicles.

Every Sunday, vehicles pull up in front of the Basilica (the home of the Camarin de la Virgen de Candelaria, a statue responsible for countless miracles) to be blessed by the priest.

The priest opens the hood of the vehicle, recites a pray then sprinkles holy water over the engine. Next, the vehicle gets decked out in strands of flowers and good-luck knick-knacks. The blessing is finished with pouring champagne over the vehicle and lighting fireworks.

I guess that’s one way to service a car 😉

blessing of vehicles

You Buy Toys For Good Luck

In Bolivia, Catholicism prevails and it wouldn’t be Semana Santa without the “Stations of the Cross”.

The Stations of the Cross are 12 meditation points that are practiced throughout the celebration. Visitors leave a stone at each station they visit.

In Copacabana, the Stations of the Cross are found on the Cerro Calvario. Set on a hill that overlooks the town and the lake, the views are absolutely stunning.

The stations are also surrounded by toy trucks, houses, plastic money – you name it, it will be there.

Devotees buy a miniature version of whatever it is they desire in hopes of achieving it soon.


You Get Sucked Into The Grand Procession

On the night of Good Friday, make sure you’re in the vicinity of the Basilica. This is the town church that’s impossible to miss because it takes up a huge portion of the city.

At the Basilica, the Holy procession takes place just after sunset.

This involves the Virgen de Candelaria and a statue of Jesus, both surrounded by candlelight, being escorted by devotees in hooded robes out of the church and through the streets of Copacabana.

It’s quite the ceremony and by the end of night, the last thing on my mind was chocolate.

the basilica

Have you experienced any celebrations or holidays abroad? Leave your story in the comment section below!


Feature Photograph: Alamy, The Guardian

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