Customs

The Spiny Crosses of Holy Week

Cactus in Shape of the Cross (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)

Holy Week is an important feast in Cuzco. There are a few rules guiding people’s celebration. You are not supposed to eat meat during this week. On Holy Thursday you go to gather cactus, what we call spines or thorns. On Good Friday you fast till midday. And, on that day you prepare and eat the twelve dishes of Holy Week.

The thorns of Holy Week are important. People go out on Thursday and gather them. We call them espinas chanqui. They are a kind of cactus whose arms sometimes take the form of a cross. Or people can cut them into the shape of a cross. You also buy in the markets Castillian garlic. With these two things people make an amulet, which they hang in their house on Good Friday in the morning.

All the families of Cuzco do this because through these crosses that they hang they can know how the next year will be for them, whether they will have good luck or bad. People say that if over time this cross grows three points then the family will have a year of happiness and progress. If the spines stay the same size, then the family will have a year of sadness and worries. If only one point grows, then they say there will be a death in the family.

Holy Week is one of the many feasts that we live in our city. We carry out our many traditions to such an extent that some people can hardly believe it.

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