Well, for starters, Easter in Mexico is not only Easter, but a combination of the Holy Week or Semana Santa and the actual Easter or Pascua, which gets another whole week of celebrations. So, let’s start with the Holy Week which, in a country as Catholic as Mexico, is quite an important celebration. However, to fully understand it, we have to go a bit further back, exactly 40 days back to the Miercoles de Ceniza (Ash Wednesday).
On this day, Mexicans go to the church and the priest puts the sign of the cross on their foreheads with the ashes of the Palm Sunday from the Holy Week of the previous year (we’ll get to that).Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Cuaresma (Lent), a 40-day period of penitence and abstinence that ends on the Holy Week; the Lent is a reminder of the 40 days that Jesus spent on the desert before living His Passion. The Sunday before Easter is called Palm Sunday or Domingo de Ramos, and it commemorates the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem, when the people received Him with palm branches.
Mexicans get these palms from the church and take them to their homes, where they put them behind the door for protection. One year later, they have to bring back those same palms to the church, where they are burned into ashes for a new Ash Wednesday (nice, eh?).
The next week takes place the celebration of the Semana Santa and the kids have two weeks of vacations. Most banks and public offices have one week off, although compulsory days off are just Maundy Thursday and Good Friday (Jueves Santo and Viernes Santo). On Good Friday takes place the Via Crucis or the re-enactment of the Passion of Christ. Sometimes it gets very authentic, with real blood and everything, being that of Iztapalapa in Mexico City, the most famous with over a million people gathering to watch it.
On Holy Saturday or Sabado de Gloria, there is still alive in some towns the tradition of burning a paper mache Judas for betraying Jesus. Then on Sunday, Catholics celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus in what is the most important religious celebration of the year (right there with Christmas). Here, terms get confusing, as in English it is Easter Sunday, but in Spanish it is Domingo de Resurrección (Resurrection Sunday).
In Mexico, Domingo de Pascua (what would be Easter Sunday) is the following Sunday, and that week is actually known as Semana Pascua or Easter Week. There are not actual traditions regarding Semana Pascua, it is mostly just an excuse for kids having what in other countries is their Spring Break. Although lately, and in just some regions of the country, the Easter Bunny has started to appear here and there, thanks mostly to commercial reasons.
Semana Santa and Semana Pascua are the best time of the year to visit Mexico City or some other big city of the country as they are quite empty, since many Mexicans take this religious celebration as an excuse to get a few days of beach, sun and fun.