This week, all the way until Easter Sunday on April 1,2018, Catholics all around the world will be celebrating Holy Week. Aside from Christmas, this is one of those annual celebrations in which religion does come to the forefront of our everyday activities.
I am pretty sure that this particular week is celebrated with its own particular traditions around the world, but in the Philippines, Holy Week is a time in which many do practice age old traditions and it is also a week which is commemorated and celebrated with family. I mean, as soon as Holy Monday hits, many will be on their way back to their home provinces, and there is usually no work from Holy Wednesday to Good Friday.
Because of these traditions, practices and celebrations that are typical in a Filipino’s Holy Week, over the years, I have realized that this week does stress me out as much as Christmas does. Whether it be the stresses of planning the best family Easter celebration ever or coping with overstuffed churches full of incense that makes my eyes water. Because of this, I ended up coming up with a list of coping techniques I’ve been using over the years, and hopefully, this list will help us celebrate Holy Week and Easter more smoothly, especially here in the Philippines.
1.Finish All Work Before Holy Week or Holy Wednesday
More often than not, from Wednesday to Friday, we will all be on vacation mode. If you are off of work on Monday, then you will be having a week long vacation. In order to maintain your stress levels, make sure that you finish your priorities at work, so that you can focus on reflecting on the events that we commemorate during Holy Week, and so that you won’t get extra stressed what with the upcoming celebrations and traditions.
2. Be Flexible With Plans
Holy Week comes with its own set of traditions,especially in the Philippines. Over here, it is very common that everyone will be a little bit busy from Thursday to Sunday. Thursday has the Feast of the Lord’s Supper and the tradition of Visita Iglesia in which we visit seven churches; Friday has the Good Friday Service; Black Saturday has the Easter Vigil; and Easter Sunday has the big Easter Sunday Mass, and then the family usually celebrates in one way or another. Just remember that it is okay to deviate from the traditions that aren’t mandatory, and remember that what is important isn’t following all of the rules rigidly but the spirit that this particular week wants us to remember.
3. Allow Others to Do the Planning For You
More often than not, I have a tendency to plan things, especially when it comes to big family celebrations, such as the family Easter Sunday celebration, which is pretty stressful. Allow others to plan it instead, so that your stress is lessened this time around. Also, allow others to do the planning for when you’ll attend mass or where you’ll go for Visita Iglesia.
4. Remember that Having a Meltdown isn’t a Sin
Holidays, no matter what they are, usually stress me out, and more often than not, there are moments in which I do have meltdowns. With this week, it can be due to stress and sensory overload. However, remember that it is okay if you do have a meltdown, and that it is not a sin do so during Holy Week. Just remember all your coping mechanisms, and put that into effect when that is happening.
5. Meditate and Reflect on What Holy Week is About Your Way
Aside from attending the services, it is good to take a moment to reflect what the week is truly about. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to do so. This is something that I often get worked about, as I tend to be a little bit more rigid about religion, and there are times in which I still get confused about some things that are right and not right, due to the fact that I was brought up in a time where we really wren’t encouraged to ask questions about faith, unlike now. So remember that whether you meditate, listen to a religious podcast, listen to religious music, or read a religious book, as long as it helps you reflect on what the week is about, and as long as it is appropriate or the venue you are at, go for it. There is no right or wrong with that.
6. Allow Yourself To Have Some Time To Recharge
Just like the Christmas Holidays, allow yourself to have time to relax and recharge, especially as you will most probably be out and busy from Thursday to Sunday. Giving yourself some time to do this everyday will really help you be calmer and more relaxed, and have better mental health to face the next service you will attend.
7. Mentally Prepare Yourself For that Good Friday Fasting and Abstinence
Fasting and Abstinence on Good Friday usually makes me cranky. Aside from having no meat and less food, it is also usually the HOTTEST day of the year, and the aircon in the church usually cannot compensate for it, plus the fact that MANY people do attend the Good Friday Service. So, aside from being emotionally unstable, there’s a lot of sensory overload that will be going on during the Good Friday service. Because of this, I suggest that you do prepare yourself the night before and during the day itself by doing something that will help you relax and be calm for the day. And, if you really cannot fast, then you can actually substitute fasting on meals for something else. Like fasting from music or something. What’s important here is to remember the reason and the spirit as to why we fast in the first place.
8. Avoid the Palm Sunday and Easter Vigil Crowd
One of the things that I do not like about the people here is that we have a tendency to crowd places, which turns into a nightmare, especially when everyone tries to go inside the church at the same time after the blessing of the palms or after the ceremonial Easter Vigil Candle is lit. I usually go into panic attack mode when this happens. Because of this, I don’t really go to those things, and thankfully, the church I attend allows PWDs to enter and sit in the PWD area earlier than others, which allows me to be in a safe place and avoid the maddening crowd.
9. Mentally and Physically Prepare Yourself For That Big Easter Sunday Family Celebration
Easter Sunday is usually celebrated with family. This can be in the form of big family reunions with Easter Egg Hunts, all the way to simple outings with the family. However, in preparation for this, it is good for us to get a lot of sleep beforehand, and to be relaxed and calm, especially as we will get tired by everything that we will do on Sunday.
10. Relax and Enjoy Yourself!
After everything is over, go ahead and treat yourself on Easter Sunday by doing a little something that relaxes you or that you enjoy doing. Oh, and give yourself a pat on the back because you survived another Holy Week in the Philippines!
I hope that this little list will indeed help you survive Holy Week in the Philippines! What do you do for Holy Week? What ends up triggering you during this week- is it sensory related or emotional stress? How do you cope with it? Let me know in the comments below!