Flowers are blooming.
The sun is shining.
Spring is in the air.
And Easter is fast approaching.
For most of us in the English-speaking world, this time of year probably conjures up images of chocolate and the Easter Bunny.
In Latin America, however, where the majority of people are devoutly Catholic, folks are excited to celebrate Pascua (Easter) in style with their own great food, colorful processions and family gatherings.
So how can you get in on these festivities, and how can you use Easter as an opportunity to create a great Spanish learning experience for yourself?
Believe it or not, it’s easier than saying, “Uno, dos, tres, Pascua (One, two, three, Easter)!”
What Learning About Latin American Easter Can Do for Spanish Learners
- Establish connections. Taking a break from textbooks and actually experiencing the festivities can help you connect to the culture and language of Latin American countries on a much deeper level, as you can create personal memories and visual recollections.
- Keep you entertained for hours. What’s not to love about celebrating holidays, and having a great time doing so? Whether it’s listening to music, tasting food or watching the celebrations, there are opportunities in Latin American Easter for all kinds of learners and learning styles. There are a wide range of possible holiday-related activities that allow you to get hands-on experience with the language while having fun.
- Give you cultural references. Holidays and festivals expose us to the importance of cultural beliefs, celebrations and myths in different Spanish-speaking countries. Easter myths and beliefs may differ in each region and highlight aspects important to life in that country, city or village.
- Increase your vocabulary. Celebrating and taking part in Easter activities helps to increase your vocabulary by introducing you to new words. Talking about Easter holidays such as Miércoles de Ceniza (Ash Wednesday) or Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday) not only allows you to practice your days of the week, but these specific phrases can be used in conversations. Which brings us to the next point…
- Help you start conversations. Hoping to make friends with fellow Spanish speakers? Knowing about holiday customs allows you to utilize helpful icebreakers, such as a friendly opener about Easter traditions and events in Latin America. Having a popular topic ready to talk about will increase your conversational comfort and speaking skills.
So, how can you jump into language learning this Pascua?
Simple: Just read on!
Pascua Passport: 9 Exciting Ways to Celebrate Easter Like You’re in Latin America
Before you start celebrating Easter in Latin America, learn some general Easter vocabulary with FluentU.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos topics, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
Plus, if you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
How to Celebrate and Learn with Festivals and Events
Semana Santa (Holy Week) is the name associated with Easter in Latin America. Religious events and observances for Easter begin in most Latin American countries on Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) and continue on through Viernes Santo (Good Friday), ending with Domingo de Pascua o Domingo de Resurrección (Easter Sunday).
While each village has unique traditions catering to its population, you can be sure that celebrations during Semana Santa will include the blessing of the palms and the wearing of purple outfits.
So get dressed up and try out some of these exciting ways to celebrate Easter like a true Latin American, all while learning!
1. Get crafty.
Celebrate the unique Señor de los Temblores (Lord of the Earthquakes) in Cusco, Peru! This cultural celebration takes place every Easter week and honors the patron saint of Cusco, who is believed to have protected the village from a disastrous earthquake in 1650.
Ñucchu flower crowns are handmade by natives every year and offered up to the gods during the climax of the ceremony.
Why not get crafty and, for your own take on this tradition, weave a crown of your favorite flowers? To make this relevant to learning, follow a step-by-step video guide in Spanish on how to make a crown for your hair, or increase your Spanish reading skills by following a written guide to making flower crowns.
2. Listen to the music.
Different from the typical upbeat, dancing songs of salsa and rumba usually associated with Latin America, Easter procession music is both joyous and sad as it’s played through the city streets.
Most cities use native instruments, like the reed chirimía in Guatemala. Keeping an eye (and ear!) out for these instruments allows you to not only listen to the music, but also get a feel for the culture of each country and a deeper understanding of its uniqueness. Why not read about the history of traditional native instruments, like the Ecuadorian zampoña, in Spanish?
Not sure where to begin or what instruments are traditional? All Around This World has an extensive list of Latin American instruments with videos and musical genres to start you off!
3. Watch and list.
Watch the colorful Fiesta de Cuasimodo (Feast of Quasimodo) that’s celebrated in Chile online. This festival takes place annually on the Sunday after Easter when, in colonial times, priests would travel to the homes of the elderly and sick who couldn’t make it to the church for communion. The priests were guarded by huasos (Chilean cowboys) along the route, which has now become a reenacted traditional occasion in many Chilean towns.
Colorful events like these give you many opportunities to pause and list as many colors and types of clothing as possible, thereby allowing you to test and increase your Spanish vocabulary.
How to Celebrate and Learn in the Kitchen
In general, traditions and customs are often reinforced through breaking bread and sharing feasts with family and the wider community. There are many ways to utilize food to really strengthen your language learning, including cooking traditional Latin American recipes usually eaten during Easter.
The interactive activities and recommended resources below will allow you to taste the culture of Spanish-speaking countries and achieve complete Spanish language immersion.
4. Watch a Spanish language cooking video and follow along.
YouTube is a great place to search for and watch Spanish language cooking clips. For example, why not try baking chipá (cheese rolls), a traditional Paraguayan Easter staple? This will not only allow you to taste traditional flavors, but will also aid in improving your Spanish listening skills as you try to follow the speaker’s instructions.
5. Try following a recipe from a Spanish cookbook or food blog.
For example, this delicious recipe for Torrejas, a Guatemalan Easter dessert, will allow you to strengthen your reading comprehension skills with the added bonus of a sweet reward!
6. Become a TV chef.
For some more in-depth fun with your cooking skills this Easter, try pretending that you’re a Spanish-speaking cooking show host by describing all your actions as you prepare a dish, such as a Peruvian Chupe de Viernes (Friday Soup). This soup is usually eaten on Good Friday because most Catholics refrain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent (and especially on Good Friday).
As you describe each action and explain what ingredients you’re adding, you’ll strengthen and incorporate grammar that you’re familiar with, all while adding to and reinforcing your Spanish food vocabulary.
7. Throw a cooking party.
For a more sociable Easter experience, why not invite Spanish-speaking friends or fellow Spanish students to come together and speak the language while making an easy-to-share Easter dish like Fanesca, an Easter soup from Ecuador?
Not only will this allow you to taste an extremely traditional dish that’s usually made and eaten together in a familial social setting, but it will also provide you with an opportunity to converse in Spanish in a relaxed and informal way.
8. Write a food review.
After making an Easter dish like sopa de queso (cheese soup) from Nicaragua, why not try to write a review about how easy or difficult it was to prepare? Be sure to include how it tasted by incorporating as many ways to describe the taste as possible.
For instance, was it deliciosa (delicious), sabrosa (tasty) or maybe you want to say it was rica (yummy)? Or, if you’d like to make it spicy the next time, think about which word for “spicy” you would use (picante, sazonada, picosa or especiada?).
9. Have fun researching food idioms.
While making a recipe like this Easter Rosca de Pascua (a ring-shaped cake) from Argentina, try searching for the main ingredients you’re using on a site like WordReference. This will allow you to find and explore Spanish idioms and expressions related to food.
For example, estar de mala leche (to be of bad milk) is often used to describe being in a bad mood. However, tener mala leche (to have bad milk) is often used when saying someone is mean.
Ask yourself if the Spanish food idioms you find have English food idioms that are literal equivalents. If not, try translating English to Spanish and vice versa.
No matter how you incorporate each of these strategies into your Spanish learning this Easter, one thing is for sure: You’ll have great fun increasing your Spanish knowledge and experiencing Pascua like a true Latin American!
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