For Christians worldwide, Easter must be a special day indeed. Various celebrations, sacred rituals and even pageantries are held to welcome the big day. Semana Santa or commonly called Holly Week is one if the things and in Larantuka, a town on Flores, the event is the most dramatic Easter welcoming tradition on the island.
Semana Santa is an acculturation of Portuguese and local cultures. Passed down through generations for five centuries, the tradition aims at reviving the moment when Jesus Christ was tortured and brutally tied on the cross. Participating in this ritual, you’ll sure to get a deeper understanding about the real meaning of Easter.
The whole procession of Semana Santa takes place for an entire week ahead of the Easter Sunday. Thousands of tourists from almost all Indonesian cities and even neighboring countries throng Larantuka even day before the ritual is yet to held. During this moment, the sleepy Larantuka instantly changes into a sea of people.
Chanting and praise echo throughout the town since early morning on Shackled Wednesday, marking the kick-off of the procession. Local residents gather and pray at the chapels to recall the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot. The solemnity soon turns into a noisy parade in the early evening. Because, at night, people will be hitting the cans and dragging various objects into the streets to remind the cruelty of the soldiers while dragging Jesus out of Getzemani park.
On the busy Maundy Thursday, devotees go down to the road to plant bamboo and candles along the route for the following day’s procession. Meanwhile, at the Chapel of Tuan Ma (Virgin Mary), the Conferia is carefully taking out the statue of Tuan Ma of its casket after one year of being sealed. It is then bathed and dressed in mourning clothes (a piece of black or purple, or blue velvet coat).
The pinnacle of the procession comes on Good Friday (also known as the Sesta Vera). At 10 o’clock, the statues of Tuan Ma and Tuan Ana (Jesus Christ) are displayed are open for public. Pilgrims are excited to embrace them and pray in front of them. This day is highlighted with a ritual carrying the statue of the body of Jesus Christ and placing Mother Mary at the center of attention, as the mourning mother (Mater Dolorosa). The parade won’t finish until mid-night. The Holy Saturday and the Easter Sunday mark the end of the entire Easter week procession.
Larantuka is a small coastal town located at the eastern tip of Flores. In the 16th century, Portuguese came here for trade and Catholicism was slowly introduced. After decades, Larantuka is now the prime destination of pilgrimage of all Catholics across Indonesia. To get to Larantuka, you need to fly to Maumere and then travel overland to the city.