It’s been another day filled with special events and activities to honor Sábado Santo. One of the activities was more commercial than the others, but I’ll get to that later. The first thing we did this morning was go to church at 9am. But we didn’t have a mass. Today they had a special blessing of children, water, basic grains, and animals (Bendición de niños, agua, granos básicos, y animales). Someone told me about it earlier in the week and when Jesús gave Kathy a program for Holy Week we saw it listed in their as well.
I got a couple pre-blessing pictures with Chiquita and then we were off. I carried her in her cage to the church. There weren’t a lot of people when we got there and I worried that we had missed it. But thankfully we were just early and people slowly began to arrive. We learned that it wouldn’t be a full mass, just a reading and blessing with water. Before it all got started I took a couple pictures of some of the animals. There were 2 big dogs sitting toward the back of the church. One woman was holding a tiny puppy as well. At the front of the church were several birds in a cage and one woman even had a turtle!
When everything was ready Father Santos asked everyone to come forward and sit together at the front of the church. To do the actual blessing Father Santos read something and then blessed the objects by sprinkling water on them. The church here does not use a special or fancy aspergillum to sprinkle holy water like most Catholic Churches in the US. Instead they use a wooden dowel with a loofah sponge on the end of it. This seems to work just as well as a metal aspergillum. I saw this same type of aspergillum used on Palm Sunday.
The first blessing was the blessing of water. People went up to the front of the church with various containers full of water. People had plastic water bottles, empty pop bottles, gasoline containers, and other jugs. Blanca had cleaned off a nice wine bottle that was left by one of the delegations to use for holy water. Kathy took it up to the front to be blessed. After the water people could bring forward paintings and statues that they wanted blessed. Several people had pictures or statues of Jesus and of Mary. Jesús took up a picture of Romero that he had. Then people could take rosaries up to be blessed. A couple nuns had shown up to have their rosaries blessed.
Then it was time to bless the animals. There were 2 big dogs, 3 small dogs, 1 baby dog, a cat, a tiny turtle, 4 parakeets, and 4 conures including Chiquita. One of the kids with a small dog was a student of mine at school. He and his sister had brought their two small dogs to be blessed. All the animals did very well while they were being blessed. Although afterwards, Chiquita flew to the ground. I don’t think she likes being wet. But it was fun. Maybe now she’ll do a better job of behaving herself.
Next came the children. This was especially fun and Father Santos looked like he was full of joy. There were babies, toddlers, and children in grade school as well. They all enjoyed being blessed and Father Santos made sure to get all of them wet. After that he said a little more and then the blessings were over. I got a picture of my student and his sister with their dogs and one of the 8-day old puppy. Then Father Santos decided that he’d bless the adults as well. There was left over holy water so why not? Kathy and I went up to be blessed. It was a good service. When Kathy and I got home we took some of the holy water and blessed Chelita and Barbara since they weren’t able to go to church with us.
Pre-blessing picture with Chiquita
She knows how to give kisses
She loves sitting on my shoulder
More birds to be blessed
Water and animals
Talking to the little girl
Meeting some of the other animals
A nice-looking dog
She was a little shy
Ready to begin
Blessing the water
Reading from the Bible
A bottle of water for Blanca
Time to bless paintings, photos, statues
Jesus with a photo of Romero
Blessings for all
These girls enjoyed it a lot
One more water to bless
A tiny puppy!
Only 8 days old
One my students and his sister with their dogs
They were excited!
Preparing to bless the animals
Blessings for the puppies
The kitty was also blessed
Talking to my student
Reading from the Bible
Waiting for water
I was really excited
Blessed water for all
Chiquita is being blessed
I had to pick her up because she flew to the ground
Blessing of the children
Prepare to be blessed
The kids loved this
Holy water all around
The priest enjoyed this as well
A happy day
More water please
The nuns enjoyed the blessings as well
Holding the tiny puppy
Holy water for Chelita
Holy water for Barbara
In the afternoon Kathy and I decided it was time to dye eggs. We looked for eggs at the market on Thursday. We couldn’t find any white ones (they are rare here) but we were able to find light brown ones so those would have to do. Since it’s not a tradition to dye eggs for Easter here this was the first time for Cecilia. Kathy had food coloring in her room and we had vinegar in the kitchen. We mixed up food coloring, vinegar, and water in coffee cups and went to get Cecilia. Kathy explained what we were doing and asked if she wanted to help. Of course!
We had all the colors of the rainbow and ended up with a beautiful assortment of eggs. I got lucky using the purple dye I’d created and dripping blue and red dye into the cup without stirring it. My egg turned out really neat. After dying one of her eggs Kathy decided to color on it using permanent markers. It was blue with little stars all over it. Once we were finished I thought we needed to put them in a basket. Kathy got some Easter grass she had stashed in her room and I got a basket that I use to put my tea in. Together we made a beautiful Easter basket!!!
Cecilia went to go get the bunny ears Kathy had brought back from the States. Cecilia and I both got a picture wearing the ears and holding the Easter basket. Kathy said she’d pass on the photo. Then Kathy said something to the effect of, “The past several days we’ve spent going to mass and having processions to commemorate Holy Week and here we are dying Easter eggs.” Very true, but at least we weren’t neglecting the religious part of Holy Week and Easter all together.
Then Cecilia showed us eggs where she’d removed a small part of the shell, dried it, and then stuffed it full of paper confetti. She glued the hole shut with tissue paper. This was a tradition here that people do on a variety of special occasions. She just happened to be drying some out for Easter. She had one completed and pretended to smash it on my head. I told her it was okay. On the first try the egg didn’t break. It had a hard shell! I told her to try hitting me harder. And it worked! Confetti flew all over the place. I picked a bunch up off the floor and threw it in the air. Yay! It was a big mess though I later swept it up.
Getting ready to dye eggs
My special egg!
We're getting there
Awww, Kathy's special egg
My special egg
The Easter Basket!
Making her special eggs
There it is
It didn't crack the first time
She did it!
Ready to go in the fridge so we can eat them later
In the evening we were going to Alejandría to have a special procession and service. We had a quick dinner and then were off at 6:15pm. I was excited because we don’t go out much at night and I’d never been driving in the cantons at night. In fact, this was only my second time being in the cantons at night. We parked the truck at Vilma’s house because her husband, David (a different Vilma and David than Corozal), said that we could park the truck there and David would watch it for us. It was pretty tricky backing the truck into the small “driveway” in the pitch black of night but Kathy did a great job and no one got run over.
From there we walked about a half a mile to Blanca’s house. It was complete darkness and there was only one “street light” in the area that was installed just this year. Thankfully, the three of us all had tiny flashlights to help lead the way. It was really hard to see but I enjoyed the walk. At one point I took a picture with the flash on of Kathy and Cecilia. Both started laughing and saying that now they really couldn’t see anything. Kathy told me to take a picture without the flash so people would know how dark it really was. Especially walking in the forest, it was even hard to see the stars in the sky at some points.
Along the way we heard a strange noise. Cecilia told us that it was lots of toads. It was a neat sound, a different sound than the toads in Iowa. Cecilia pointed out a couple to me with her light so I could get a picture. There were tons of them! The tough part of our journey came when we had to cross the little stream. We all had our lights on and stepped on rocks over the stream. Had it been raining, the water would be too high to cross so we could not have gone to the procession. But thankfully it had stopped raining.
Walking to Alejandria
This is how dark is was
Trying to hop away
Around 7:00pm we arrived at Blanca’s house. We dropped off our water and sweaters and walked on to Cecilia’s house where the procession would start. There was a big fire going outside the house and everyone was gathered around it. We passed out candles to be used during the procession. Then it was time to begin. Balmore started by talking about Holy Saturday and Jesus’ death. Then a few people lit their candles from Balmore’s candle. We walked a short ways and more people lit their candles. Then we walked a little further and when we arrived at Blanca’s house everyone else lit their candles.
Around 8pm the actual service began and we all blew out our candles. I wasn’t 100% sure of the entire meaning of the procession and the mass/service afterwards for two reasons: 1) some of the Spanish I didn’t understand, and 2) I’m not Catholic and have never done a Catholic Easter Vigil before. From what I can gather reading things on the internet there were four parts to the evening: The Service of Light, The Liturgy of the Word, Renewal of Baptism Vows, and the Holy Eucharist.
The first part is when a fire is lit and from that someone lights a special Easter candle. Everyone has a candle that is lit from the Easter candle one person at a time. From there someone chants the Easter Proclamation and everyone sits down for the liturgy part. That’s exactly what we did during our procession.
Next came the Liturgy of the Word. There were several young members of the community that came up to read seven different readings from the Old Testament. In between each reading we sang a song. I knew a couple so I got to sing along. After that Balmore gave a short homily since he is a Delegate of the Word (like a lay minister).
When the liturgy and homily were finished Balmore got out the holy water that had been blessed earlier in the day by Father Santos. He used a small bouquet of flowers to disperse the holy water over everyone at the vigil. This was to help us remember our baptism and the vows we took when we were baptized. Then came the Holy Eucharist. Balmore had wafers that had been blessed by the priest and we all took communion.
Balmore said a few words at end the service and we were done at 10:00pm. All together, the vigil was 2 hours, though I felt it went by fast. Someone had been in the kitchen area making coffee and putting pan dulce in bags for everyone during part of the vigil. Cecilia and Blanca came around passing out coffee and pan dulce to everyone. I went into the kitchen area to see what was going on. I don’t like coffee but they told me I should try some since it was made with chocolate and milk. I decided to give it a try and hoped I would like it. But I didn’t like it. All I could taste was coffee.
Around 10:30pm we decided it was time to head back to Berlín. I wanted to walk back to the truck with my candle lit. So I lit my candle and we were off. We were walking back with several other people so we all chatted as we walked along the road. Other people had candles lit as well. When we got to the river one of the women told her sons to help me across. Not wanting to be rude I allowed him to take my hand and help me across. Soon we came upon the open field sometimes used for soccer. Looking below we could hundreds of fireflies. They were beautiful! I didn’t know they existed in El Salvador.
We made it back to the pickup and gave a couple people a ride to Berlín. Getting the pickup out of the “driveway” was much easier than getting it into the driveway. By the time we got back to the house it was 11:00pm. I worked on my blog for a short while and then crashed.
Idalia holding her candles
Alejandro with his candle
Gathered around the fire
Listening to Balmore speak
Time to reflect
Lighting the candles
During the liturgy
Listening to the readings
Talking after the homily
Lighting the candles again
With all of our candles lit