For Christians around the world, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, which includes numerous activities and celebrations that precede Easter Sunday.
Common activities commemorating the Passion of Christ include performing the Stations of the Cross, which revisits Jesus’ crucifixion, Seder meals to recall the Last Supper, washing of the feet, which Jesus did for his disciples, and processions on Good Friday, the day Jesus died.
But some cultures take these celebrations beyond mere remembrances. From Palm Sunday to some extreme Good Friday celebrations to Resurrection Sunday, there are all kinds of commemorations:
One of the most packed places is in the Holy Land, where it all took place over 2,000 years ago. Pilgrims from around the world celebrate in their own ways, in their own language and across denominations, to visit the holy sites. One being the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem.
From a massive procession on Palm Sunday where thousands of Christian pilgrims climb Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives to re-enact Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with palm branches to the Church of All Nations to Saint Anne Church, St. Steven’s Gate (the Lions Gate), the Old City and down the Via Dolorosa singing songs and reciting blessings.
Through Good Friday, there are daily masses at the Church of Holy Sepulcher and the Garden of Gethsemane church, the Basilica of the Agony.
Many Catholics make pilgrimages around the world during Lent, but one of the easiest places to visit different basilicas is the Holy City.
This year, the faithful can go up the Scala Santa, or “Holy Stairs,” that were previously covered for the last 300 years. These are the steps that it is believed Jesus walked up before he was tried by Pontius Pilate to be crucified.
Attendees crawl up the stairs on their hands and their feet, which need to be covered to protect the marble.
In Mexico City residents perform a realistic “Passion Play,” dramatizing Christ’s crucifixion and death on a cross. The local government, not the Catholic Church, sponsors the event which is designated an “intangible cultural heritage” in Mexico City by UNESCO.
Thousands of local actors re-enact Christ’s walk to his death on Calvary. The person chosen to play Jesus is picked for their moral character and strength because they need to wear a crown of thorns and be flogged while carrying a 200-pound cross. He is then tied to it in a re-enactment of the crucifixion.
In the Philippines, participants are physically nailed — hands and feet — to a cross just as Jesus Christ was 2,000 years ago. The San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites in Pampanga have taken place on Good Friday after a two-hour street play every year since 1962.
At least three, and as many as 12, individuals are nailed to a cross on a makeshift Calvary. Each person remains on the cross until he “feels cleansed of his sin,” while others flog themselves with bamboo sticks tied to a rope. One man has been nailed to the cross 22 times.
Trafalgar Square, London
This realistic interpretation of Jesus’ death is not as graphic as Pampanga’s, but it’s still not advised for young children. The Passion of Jesus in Trafalgar Square involves more than 100 participants from the Wintershall Players, as well as horses, doves and donkeys.
Some 20,000 spectators attend the event, which has free 90-minute performances at noon and 3:15 p.m. on Good Friday, as well as big screens to ensure everyone can watch.
San Vicente de la Sonsierra, Spain
Participants dressed in white habits flog themselves at the “Los Picaos” procession in the Rioja Village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra in northern Spain.
Using esparto grass ropes, they whip their backs in a graphic display for 20 minutes. This method of penance, used in many places through the 18th century, has managed to survive to modern times in this Spanish village.
Germany’s take on the suffering of Jesus is a bit tamer. The charming southwestern town of Bensheim, which just celebrated its 1,250th anniversary, has hosted an annual Good Friday procession presented by local Italian families since 1982.
Crowds gather for the theatrical performance, which begins with Judas’ famous kiss of betrayal and includes Jesus’ appearance before the Sanhedrin, Pontius Pilate sentencing him to death and Jesus’ scourging, carrying of the cross and death.
Over 50 people work to install a 36-feet high cross ahead of Easter on Surprise View at the top of Otley Chevin hill, England, Saturday, April 6, 2019. The Chevin cross has become a well-known Easter symbol, normally erected two weeks before Easter, made from wood salvaged after the 1996 Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb which devastated part of central Manchester. (Copyright: Danny Lawson/PA via AP)
Written by: Caleb Parke
First published 13.04.19: