Apr 10, 2020

A Trio of Haitian Easter Traditions

As the Lenten season winds to an end and spring really begins to bloom, Easter preparations are usually in full swing around the globe. This year, however, is quite a bit different. Easter, normally a time for food, family and worship, promises to be radically different in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic looms, causing global lock-downs. So while we all remain inside, six feet apart, perhaps a little reminder of the color and happiness Easter usually brings wouldn’t go amiss.

Let’s look at a few common Haitian traditions for this normally festive spring holiday.

Easter celebrations generally begin on Good Friday, a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion that falls on the Friday just before Easter Sunday. In Haiti, this is generally a day of revelry and fun, especially for children. Children are often given a two week vacation just before the Easter holiday, and while this time is of course spent with friends and family, it is also a time to prepare and craft the perfect paper kite.

 

Kite contests in Haiti are a longstanding and incredibly fun Easter tradition. Children spend days looking for worthy materials to craft and decorate their kites, often helped by family. Some purchase their perfect kite from the many vendors that offer them during this special time. When Good Friday rolls around and the rara bands begin their colorful, musical processions through the streets, the sky is dotted with these vibrant paper crafts as children compete to see whose will fly highest or remain afloat the longest. Prizes are often awarded to the best kite flyers.

The religious aspects of Easter in Haiti are a mix of Haitian Vodou and Catholicism. Vodou believers rejoice beside Rara bands as they parade through the streets, culminating in a spiritual festival in the small village of Souvenance, while Catholics attend a midnight mass on the Holy Saturday before Easter.

Easter itself is celebrated with a sunrise mass and an elaborate family meal. In the Lenten days leading up to Easter Sunday, the catholic tradition of foregoing red meat is observed and families generally feast on meals of fish, grains and a plentiful amount of vegetables. A unique dish called a “Holy Week Salad” is also served during this time that consists of turnips, carrots, beets, cabbage and boiled eggs.

After the meal, families generally spend the day outside, conversing and enjoying the time they have together while children play, taking full advantage of the last vestiges of their spring vacation.

Easter is a time of reflection and renewal. Whatever your Easter traditions may be, or how they’ve been forced to change during this unprecedented time of social separation, we can all agree that they’re an important and much needed break from the hectic pace of this trying year. So keep safe, keep inside, don’t forget to wash your hands and have a happy, healthy Easter. May this time next year, once again, be a familiar floral whirlwind of pastels, outdoor fun, and happy, hug-filled gatherings for us all.

Klike la pou w li atik sa a an kreyòl

Easter Vocabulary

English Haitian Creole Translaton
Easter Pak
Lent Karèm
Holy Thursday Jedi sen
Good Friday Vandredi sen
Palm Sunday Dimanch ramo
Holy Week Semèn sent
Sunday after Easter Dimanch kazimodo
Lamb Mouton
Eggs Ze
Fish Pwason
Fly kite Kap

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