by Diana Pastor
In our ongoing series looking at Guatemalan customs and traditions, this month we’re looking at an Easter favorite – Easter Bread. Passed down through generations, this tradition has changed somewhat over the years, but even today it is difficult to find people who do not participate in it. During the days of Holy Week, people place orders at the bakery to commission a lot of bread (the minimum is twenty-five pounds in weight) because it is almost mandatory for bakeries and shops not to sell bread during the entire Easter (this time will be from 2 to 8 April).
Years ago, family members arrived at the bakery early in the morning and asked permission to complete the bulk of the process, bringing all ingredients, mixing and kneading and placing the finished product directly in the oven. Now things have changed, and almost no one actually makes their own bread, preferring to place orders instead. Those who do not order it sometimes receive bread as gifts from relatives or friends.
The tradition of making bread in large quantities has also been very popular in several places during the time leading up to a marriage in indigenous cultures. Bread is given as a symbol of union between the families of the bride and groom. It is customary that women carry the bread in baskets placed on their head. In some villages of the Altiplano bread and hot chocolate are served before lunch on the day of the main wedding ceremony.
There is also another custom of Lent associated with bread which is performed less often in some neighborhoods and parts of the country. It centers on the biblical story of Judas asking for bread and is performed by children and young people in each neighborhood. First they build a rag doll with sticks and wire and other materials to create the image of a man. Later in the afternoon, they carry this doll around the streets, going from door to door and asking families to give away a loaf for the Judas who betrayed Jesus Christ before his crucifixion. When night falls, they gather the bread and distribute it to each member of the group.