Holy Week, also known as Semana Santa, is a week of contemplation, reflection, and commemoration of Jesus Christ's sacrifice and suffering. Being one of the countries where Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion, Filipinos have evolved and continue to bring to life the customs and beliefs that have been formed and practiced throughout the years of Catholicism in the Philippines, which strengthens their devotions.
Lent, or kwaresma in Filipino, is the season during which Filipinos remember Christ's passion, suffering, death, and resurrection. Filipinos will gather 40 days after Ash Wednesday to honor long-standing customs and traditions. The Philippines is known as the only exclusively Christian country in Asia, and its population is made up of a large number of devoted Catholics, which is why Lent Season or Holy Week traditions are regularly followed in a very distinctive manner.
Many of these Holy Week rituals are still a part of the particular Filipino spirituality. Many of us Filipinos, while living in a fast-paced and convenient world, cherish the moments when we spend Holy Week with seriousness and mystery. Holy Week traditions in the Philippines are largely the same throughout all regions, cities, and villages. There are also a few Filipino Holy Week superstitions that many people still adhere to after many years.
With the observance of Holy Week in the Philippines, here are the dos and don’ts that the majority of Filipinos strictly follow:
Here are the things You CAN Do
Take Part in Something Spiritual
There are a lot of traditions and practices that you could take part in during the Lenten season such as Station of the Cross, Daan ng Krus, Pabasa, Senakulo, Prusisyon, Visita Iglesia, Penitencia, and more. Although some of these celebrations we used to have over the years (like the Pabasa, Senakulo, and Penitensya) may not be able to be done due to the COVID-19 crisis, we can at least take an alternative route and send our prayers so that this pandemic would now end for the betterment of everyone. We all know that these rituals and traditional practices are means for some to do it as an act of sacrifice for the sake of their faith, their families, and some individuals to recognize Christ's sacrifice, but now is not the time to pursue them. Keep praying for the planet to be healed, and one day everything will return to normal.
Besides, not all traditional rituals are being avoided because of the situation. You can still take part in something spiritual—like attending masses, joining a bible study, or just genuinely praying inside your condo. Even the littlest action can bring a big difference.
Put Palaspas on Your Front Door
According to the Bible, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, he was greeted by a mob clutching palm leaves. That is why many Catholics carry palm leaves to church. Another belief is to place palm leaves on front doors to ward off evil spirits. It is a joyous occasion in which churchgoers raise their palm leaves into the air to be blessed by the presiding priest. After the service, participants take their newly blessed palm leaves home. Many people stick them to their front doors, windowsills, and even roofs. This is a Filipino belief that a blessed palm can bring good fortune and dispel negativity from the home.
People are typically drawn to Jesus-related events because they believe they will be saved as a result of them. The evil spirits may be chased away if each home has its own "palaspas." This is usually done before to the commencement of Holy Week. Filipinos frequently save palm leaves for the next year.
Get an Anting-anting on Good Friday
One of the Filipino Holy Week superstitions is to seek for anting-antings in order to fight off bad spirits.
Anting-antings or traditional amulets become more effective on Good Friday when malevolent spirits are at their peak. It's said to be an excellent day for seeking, testing, and recharging anting-antings, similar to how modern-day witches replenish their crystals. This could be because the animist spirit realm is more liberated during this time.
Different anting-antings can be utilized for a variety of purposes, including healing, protection, passing board exams, and even bestowing charm and sexual vigor on someone. They're frequently sold in front of churches.
Here are the things You SHOULD NOT Do
Eat Meat from Maundy Thursday to Black Saturday
During the Lenten season, the customary three (3) meals per day will not be observed. Catholics tend to limit their food consumption, particularly by refraining from eating meat on Fridays. This is the simplest but also the most difficult practice because, from Ash Wednesday until Holy Week, Catholics abstain from eating meat (or any other food or activity) as a show of penance. This type of tradition is also for spiritual focus, personal discipline, and Christ-like imitation. Fasting and abstinence are observed in sympathy with Jesus' sacrifices for humanity. During Holy Week, people refrain from eating meat or limit their lunchtime. Others abstain from "guilty pleasures" such as smoking or consuming alcohol.
From Maundy Thursday through Black Saturday, avoid eating pork and chicken, and start eating in favor of fish and vegetables. Meat is connected with impurity and a negative omen, yet you can get by without it these days, and it's also excellent for your body.
Be Too Loud
Karaokes, sound tours, and even car horns should be avoided during the closing days of Holy Week. Even if you don't believe in this superstition, you should respect those who do — especially those in your own family.
Because Good Friday and Black Saturday are considered mourning days, many people believe they should be kept quiet and gloomy. Catholics are reflecting on the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As a result, excessive or unnecessary noise is discouraged. Whistling is also deemed impolite.
Holy Week isn't even a time for celebrations or parties, being excessively loud isn't really an option. Instead, think and pray.
Make Your Lenten Intentions Temporary
This being called a Holy Week or a Lenten season doesn’t mean you would reflect only for a week or a season—it is a sincere commitment with God, and our intentions and prayers this Lenten shouldn’t be only consistent for a season. Let’s learn to constantly seek reflection on ourselves even on regular days, without occasions.
Lent is a time to make long-term improvement in our lives — both spiritually and in our relationships with others. It is not the time to wait until Lent is complete, only to return to the same person we were before it began. Allow Lent to enrich your spiritual development and relationship with God via others.
Although some people may not believe in these Filipino beliefs and aren’t practicing traditions this Lenten season, we must keep in mind that the whole purpose of this is to bring our hearts closer religiously and spiritually. Whatever you do or do not do, what’s important is that we focus on our relationship with God.
It is essential to note that Holy Week is when Jesus died on the cross to save mankind. The observance of Holy Week traditions is a practice, but let us not linger on superstitions and other such things just because they are the tradition—let’s rather spend time focusing on contemplating, reflecting, and praying.
Let's not forget to focus on our relationship with God
There is no such thing as too much of God's word in our life!
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