Lent traditions, offering, and tribute

The gardens or altars are part of Guatemala's rich heritage of popular religiosity.

by Pamela Contreras

Guatemala, by AGN – The Lent gardens, or altars, are part of Guatemala’s rich heritage of popular religiosity. In its beginnings, evangelization in America needed means for the population to assimilate Catholicism; therefore, many manifestations arose, among them the gardens and altars. These are regularly elaborated during Lent and are part of the popular evangelization.

Senses stimulation 

The distribution of the space, the decorative elements, the depth, and the lighting of the altar create theatrical effects for the recreation of the scenes in which the image of veneration is the center of attention.

Lent altars also incorporate vegetable gardens. These regularly form part of a colored sawdust carpet.

In this regard, the gardens use a great variety of fruits and vegetables and serve as an offering. These have their origins in pre-Hispanic religious manifestations because they’re a tribute and honor to the land that provides.

Different versions

The garden is a variant of the altar, which can be seen inside temples or houses. It combines multiple elements: a sawdust carpet with a structure of fruits, vegetables, and flowers, which regularly come from the harvest of the season and are presented as an offering of the fruits of the earth.

The tradition of the gardens belongs to more than just the temples but also to the domestic sphere. These are usually made in houses as a sign of devotion or for the passage of processions.

A classification sorts the altars and gardens into three categories:

  • Curtains are arranged in different lengths and widths on wooden or metal structures. The color of curtains depends on the liturgical season; in the case of Lent, purple is a symbol of penitence.
  • Drapes are painted canvases with a scene or central theme in the center of which the image of veneration stands out.
  • Domestic altars are set in houses, combining different elements; the venerated image, scene, or biblical passage is at the center.  

These traditions bring hundreds of people and boost tourism since they are genuinely artwork. 

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