Monday, April 5, 2010

Holy Week -- Our Easter in Cuenca

Here in Ecuador, Samana Santa (Easter), is a week long holiday.  It's a time for family and religious devotion. 

No commercial Easter baskets, no Easter Bunny, no dyed Easter eggs, no jelly beans, no chocolate bunnies.
(We did see a little girl wearing a pink headband with bunny ears, but this was only one --very adorable!-- little girl.)

It's traditional for families and restaurants to make a seasonal stew, called 'fanesca'.  Fanesca is a heavy, rich soup, made with 12 different grains (representing the 12 desciples of Jesus), and can also include corn, potatoes, several kinds of beans and salted cod.  (No meat as it's served during Lent.) It can be topped with slices of avocado and hard boiled eggs.  Many versions of fanesca....each Senora has her own traditional recipe but they all  include the grains and most include the cod.

One day we had a bowl of fanesca for lunch...good.  It was a vegetarian version, no fish, with little balls of grains (like meatballs).  The balls were a bit sweet and dough-y, kind of tasted like oatmeal cookie dough.

The week begins with Palm Sunday.

On our Sunday walk that day, we enjoyed the collection of ladies outside of the Cathedral, all making and selling special weavings and bouquets, all made from palm leaves and assorted herbs.  Folks were buying them to carry inside the Church for Mass, where decorations and bouquets are blessed and then the decorations are taken home with the blessings.

On Holy Thursday, we were in town again, in the evening this time.  The Cathedral was so full that people were awaiting entry outside. (This Cathedral can accommodate about 9000 people, so you can get a feel for the crowds!)

Lots of food vendors lined the sidewalks:  BBQ and candied apples and other snacks.  We hear there was a candlelight parade later that evening.  It sounded beautiful, so we'll have to plan to see it next year.

On Good Friday we were in town again, during the day.  A very solumn, very slow parade passed by.  Everyone was dressed in black.  The drums were loud and slow, like a funeral procession.  Most shops were closed.

Easter Sunday, we were in town once again.  The Cathedral was packed again. We went in, expecting to see the church all decorated with Easter lilies, but the flower arrangements were the usual multi-beautiful ones we see all the time there...  no US traditional white lilies.  We stood with families (Crowded! Shoulder-to-shoulder...Every seat was taken) and enjoyed a soloist with a lovely voice, accompanied by guitar.  As we left the Church, we found a good bench in the shade and people-watched...then headed to breakfast...caught up with friends and had a wonderful day in the sunshine.

A nice week...

(Nancy says:  Hope someone ate a chocolate bunny for me!  Ears first...)

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