Before arriving in Paraguay, I had heard that Christian religious holidays were a big deal. I was beginning to catch on after having now been through virtually a year of Catholic celebrations. However, Holy Week and Easter were really quite unique in my experiences. Aside from having school and work cancelled starting on Wednesday of Holy Week, there are several fun traditions involved with the holiday that I wish to share.
Wednesday and Thursday are all about chipa (cheesy bread made in various shapes and sizes). Families and neighbors get together to cook in the yard in a traditional tatakua (like a pizza brick oven), each with their own recipe and slightly modified version of chipa. From then on, everyone gifts chipa to neighbors and friends… with enough chipa to eat for a week and still have more leftovers. Lunch on Thursday is a large family affair with prayers and special hand-washing practices AFTER eating. Any leftovers are brought to those less fortunate. For once the soup kitchen is obsolete. From then on, fasting begins. Not a “fast” as in not eating, but a fast from meat. Which, in Paraguay, is a pretty big deal. A meal is not complete without meat! So, more chipa it is, and perhaps some beans if the family is not too tired of them yet (this has been the Friday meal for the entire month already). Friday is spent in deep and quiet reflection. Children are not out playing in the streets, the stores are closed, families are bunked-down for the day. I covet the silence as I normally have VERY loud music blasting from the neighbors’ on either side of my house. Saturday, all the stops are pulled for a big asado celebration. We may not have been able to eat meat on Friday, but Saturday makes up for it all (and some). My friends and I enjoy a freshly killed cow, which was actually cooked to a perfect medium-rare for once. I knew this day was special. Sunday, after a larger than normal mass, it’s more toasts and more asado. Easter has arrived!