Semana Santa Has Changed For Mi Familia, but This Year, We’re Going Back to Basics — Virtually

Ever since mis hermanos y yo became adults, Easter at home took a different turn. We all followed our dreams, which took us to different countries, and things obviously changed. They'll be a new type of different this year, so I'm looking back on old traditions to create new ones in which we all can be together — even if it's virtually.

When we were little we'd get the whole Semana Santa off, and retreat just outside of Santo Domingo — where we lived — in a modest house my dad built from the ground up that became our refuge in a way.

Our days were very low key, with tíos and tías that were not really blood related — but who we still considered family — popping up here and there to hang out, take a dip in the pool, grill some meat on the BBQ, and have some drinks.

On Maundy Thursday we'd drive to our church in the city for "el lavado de los pies" and after mass, we'd go church hopping to see how each place of worship was celebrating Holy Week. At night, we'd go back to our refuge. Friday and Saturday were very quiet, as we were supposed to be mourning the death of Jesus, so we weren't allowed to be loud, play music that wasn't classical music, or take part in anything that resembled a celebration.

At night, my siblings and I would watch the many movies about the passion of Christ that the local channels would broadcast, and anxiously wait for Easter. On Easter Sunday my mom would surprise us with kits to decorate our own Easter eggs, and then my siblings and I had to go get ready for la visita — there was always visita coming that day.

As we got ready, my parents hid the eggs in the backyard, and then we had to go find them. Once the visita arrived, the music would get louder, dancing would ensue, and the whole day felt like a big, happy party. Late in the afternoon, we'd pack up and head back to the city, stopping at church first for the Domingo de Resurrección mass, which was another big celebration where hugs, kisses, and congratulations floated around in a cheerful environment.

As my siblings and I got older and went to college, Semana Santa became a long weekend instead of the whole week, from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. My parents would try to scope where most of our friends would be spending their days off so we could all have a nice family-friends balance, and the only rule now was that on Friday we were not allowed to party, and we had to wait until at least 10pm on Saturday before we went out, out of respect for Jesus. On Sunday, family time — most likely lunch — was mandatory.

Eventually, my siblings and I moved out to different countries — all 3 of us — so Easter became more of a "celebrate how you can" holiday. However, with the world's turn of events, we've been trying to go back to the things that really make us feel safe, which for us, is family. We've agreed on a Zoom lunch/dinner — since we're in different time zones too — where everyone is required to cook something to bring to the virtual table.

Casual attire is preferred, just so we can get out of our PJs and actually put some effort, and our best attitude is required. As for me in particular, I think I'll also live stream a mass even though I'm not necessarily the most religious person anymore. I do think that holding onto the things from your past that made you comfortable can bring a lot of peace, and after all, I was taught that this holiday is about Jesus anyways, so might as well honor that in the process.