Antigua Tours by Elizabeth Bell

Antigua Tours LLC has specialized in Cultural Tourism in Guatemala since 1992. We offer personalized itineraries based on traveler’s needs and requests. We offer efficient travel throughout the country with new vehicles, licensed guides and great rates on hotels and airlines.

++502 7832-5821 | ++502 7832-2046 4a Calle Oriente #39 La Antigua Guatemala [email protected]

Antigua Tours Main Office – 5a Avenida Norte 4A inside Casa del Conde, Antigua Guatemala. | in**@an**********.net

Holy Vigils in Antigua

Holy Vigils, or velaciones, at the various churches in Antigua, are even more spectacular than ever in 2024! These take place usually two days before the church´s procession. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, they continue throughout Lent and take place every Friday during Lent with additional velaciones for the Virgen Mary sculptures the week before Holy Week. Holy vigils are open all day for that day only.

UNESCO included Holy Week in Guatemala in its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage on November 30, 2022, and Guatemalans have reacted with even more impressive celebrations!

Organized by the Board of Directors of each hermandad in charge of the various processions, the sculpture that appears in the procession, whether Christ or the Virgin Mary, is placed near the church altar with an enormous decorative backdrop illustrating a special message from the bible that changes from year to year. An ornate sawdust carpet is created in front. Surrounding the carpet are fruits and vegetables representing the garden, or huerto, where Jesus visited prior to crucifixion, Gethsemane. In many regions of Guatemala, the local Maya traditions have intertwined as we find tropical fruits and vegetables including the best-of-the-harvest papayas, coconuts, watermelons, mangoes, pineapples, avocados and other tropical fruits and vegetables native to Guatemala like jocotes, caimitos and granadillas. Bread and lit candles are also included with flowers and the large pod, corozo, brought from the south coast of Guatemala. Its soft yellow insides are characteristic of Lent and add a particular fragrance to the holy vigils and carpets.

The music of the traditional flute (pito) and drum (tambor) at the front door of the church are signs that there is a holy vigil and the funeral march band concert usually begins at 8pm in front of the church and lasts until 10pm. A well known march is La Granadera and others include those composed by Fredric François Chopin as well as Guatemalan composers such Manuel José de Quiroz and others.

While everyone goes to see the decorations that are prepared in the church for the holy vigil and to pray to the sculptures, many also go to enjoy the food in front of the church. These foods include traditional snacks like churros (donut-like deep fried pastries), tostadas (roasted tortillas with beans or guacamole), algodones (cotton candy), poporopos (popcorn), plataninas (plantain chips), panes (sandwiches), batidos (fruits shakes) and coffee.

Much of the city´s social life revolved only around religious activities until the 1970s. Visiting velaciones is a tradition that dates to the earliest churches in the city.
Read more in Elizabeth Bell’s “Lent and Holy Week/Cuaresma y Semana Santa La Antigua Guatemala” available in local book stores.

Photos by Elizabeth Bell, Rafael Martínez and Hermandad Cruzados de Cristo Rey, Antigua Guatemala

Elizabeth Bell, an expert in the cultural history of the UNESCO site of Antigua Guatemala, opened Antigua Tours in 1992 and loves touring participants around this magical city. Author of seven books, countless articles and award winning for her preservation efforts, Elizabeth brings to life special details through this blog.


  • David A Dean

    March 19, 2024

    Simply the best~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~as always!

  • Elizabeth Bell

    March 21, 2024

    Thank you so much and I appreciate your comment!


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