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Experience Easter in Panama. Easter is one of most important events in the Catholic calendar and in Panama it is a period of reflection when many people attend masses, processions and the events which take part during the’ Via Crucis’ reenactments on Good Friday. During the seven days of Easter week the consumption of meat is prohibited and the majority of Panamanians tend to eat fish and seafood.
In Panama, every town has its own particular way to commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, in what we commonly known as “Easter”. That week is a period full of colorful religious processions which are followed by believers. However the more formal religious celebrations take place on ‘Holy’ or ‘Maundy’ Thursday, Good Friday, Glorious Saturday and Easter Sunday.
On Holy Thursday people remember the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples, in which he washed the apostles’ feet as an example of humility. A representation of the “Last Supper” will take place at “Iglesia de La Merced” and “San Francisco de Asis” in Casco Antiguo at 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m respectively. The ceremony of the washing of the feet can be witnessed at the “Basilica Don Bosco” in Calidonia, with a mass, procession and holy communion. The ceremony will begin at 5:00 p.m.
In the interior, the small town of Pese, Herrera province, right in the middle of the Azuero Peninsula, will have a reenactment of the “Last Supper” and the arrest of Jesus on the Mount of Olives.
The ‘Via Crucis’ interpretations will take place on Good Friday. In Panama City, they can be seen at the “Iglesia de La Merced” from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in Casco Antiguo and at the “Basilica de Don Bosco” in Calidonia, from 9:00 a.m.
Perhaps the most moving reenactments of the Passion of the Christ can be witnessed in the interior in La Chorrera,in the Panama West province, where the community and the church get together to recreate the crucifixion of Jesus.
The ‘Via Crucis’ reenactment is part of the customs of the central provinces, especially in places like Parita, Chitre, Las Tablas and Guarare, in the Azuero Peninsula. Other towns like Rio de Jesus, in Veraguas and Boquete, in the Chiriqui province also carry out this tradition every Good Friday.
The tiny town of Pese, in Herrera province is famous for its reenactment of the ‘Via Crucis’, which has taken place for more than sixty years. The tradition started in 1954 when Father Jose Luis Angulo arrived in the San Jose de Pese Parish. He noticed that locals were natural actors and proposed the staging of the ‘Via Crucis’ for Easter week. The rest is history. The procession has now become a tradition in the Herrera province which attracts hundreds of pilgrims every year.
Since then more than 200 people have participated in this drama which is reminiscent of similar ones in Spain and Mexico. The reenactment is moving, especially the crucifixion of Jesus, which takes place on a hill near the town center, and during the different Stations of the Cross. The public is completely mesmerized by the drama that enfolds before their eyes
Many generations have participated in the dramatizations, not only as actors, but also as stage builders, make-up artists and sound engineers.
The community of Rio de Jesus in Veraguas, began presenting the living “Passion of the Christ”, ten years ago. The play “Christ, Justice, Peace and Freedom” has won many followers and around 90 actors take part. Its production costs over $7,000 each year. You can visit that town, which is famous for its religious tourism, by taking a bus from the National Bus Terminal in Albrook. Accommodation is scarce so it is advisable to make reservations at local hostels before you go.
On Glorious Saturday the majority of towns will have parties and fireworks to celebrate the Christ’s Resurrection. There are masses in all the Catholic churches and the locals make coconut ‘bollo’ (boiled maize and coconut) and give them to their neighbors.
The celebrations continue on Easter Sunday with a party atmosphere and masses everywhere, which makes Easter in Panama an experience that you will never forget.