Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Oaxaca is generally made up of rather somber events. In contrast with other holidays, this is the most serious, much more so than Day of the Dead, which is often celebrated in a lighthearted way. The gravity of the events being commemorated are reflected in the observances that take place during this week.
The Friday before Easter, which is the day that commemorates Jesus' crucifixion, is marked by a silent procession along the main pedestrian street in Oaxaca, Calle Macedonio Alcalá. The procession takes place in the late afternoon, and winds its way through the city streets. Observers are asked to remain silent in order to maintain the solemnity of the event.
You will notice that some of the participants in this procession wear the pointed hoods which in the United States are strongly associated with the Ku Klux Klan and seen as a racist symbol. In Mexico, as in Spain where these hoods originated (long before the existence of the Klan), they are seen as a symbol of penitence; they are meant to hide the identity of the wearer so that their participation in the procession is not done for show, but as a personal expression of repentance.
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A special tradition that is unique to Oaxaca is celebrated on the fourth Friday of Lent (the date varies from year to year). You'll see re-enactments of the scene from the biblical passage in which Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at the well. Local businesses and churches set up stands to give out refreshing drinks to passers-by for free.
If you're in Oaxaca on this date, head to Macedonio Alcalá street around 11 am where you'll find a long row of stalls set up to hand out refreshments. You can enjoy some local drinks such as "agua de jamaica" and "agua de horchata."