Celebrating Holy Week in Panama

Blog by Andres Lay

While Panama has no official religion, approximately 82 percent of the population of Panama identify as Roman Catholic. Therefore, as one would imagine, Easter — the holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ — is an important time here in Panama. This year, the Easter holiday is celebrated on Sunday, April 5th, though it doesn’t begin there. Preceding this is Lent, which is a period of forty days of fasting, prayer and penance. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week (aka, “Semana Santa”) which begins with Palm Sunday and culminates with Easter Sunday. Within this period is the Easter Triduum, a three-day period of prayer: Holy Thursday, commemorating the Last Supper; Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus; and Holy Saturday, the last day of Lent.

For many Catholics, Easter is the most significant liturgical moment of year. It is a time not for sadly remembering Christ’s sufferings, but rather a period of devotion to prayer and reflection on the mysteries of the Passion and Death of Jesus. Holy week is a time to pray, sacrifice, repent for one’s sins, and restore one’s Christian faith. It is also a time for celebration, and for many Catholic Panamanians it has become a holiday for relaxation, travel, or both.

Easter is an opportune time for Panamanians to travel within the country to visit relatives. Many sojourn to beaches or mountain towns (such as Boquete), spend quality time with family, or enjoy one form of entertainment or another. There is also a significant amount of Catholic Panamanians who congregate and participate in activities they perform with their church.

Fasting and abstinence during Lent

As previously mentioned, Lent is a period of forty days of fasting, prayer and penance… but what does this mean? It breaks down like this:

– Fasting means to eat only one main meal each day.

– Abstinence means not eating any meat.

– Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the days of abstinence and fasting.

– Abstinence is required of believers older than 14, and fasting is required of those from age 18 to 59 years old.

Similar to many other holidays in Panama, accommodations during this time tend to be a hot commodity. If you are desiring to travel to Boquete during this time, be sure to make your reservation at Casa de Montana soon. We are already getting inquiries and bookings for Holy Week, so be sure to contact us promptly! We look forward to sharing this special sacred occasion with you.

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