Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Burning of Judas

Last year I posted about an Easter tradition I'd never witnessed. Since the link is down I will copy my description:

(Judas, obviously? A photo my boyfriend sent me that sparked my interest about the tradition)

Apparently there is a somewhat widespread Orthodox and Catholic ritual to burn an effigy of Judas, the man who betrayed Jesus. However, I'm not Catholic, and I had never heard of this tradition before coming here. (In Chile I've personally only heard "la quema de Judas," however, the internet tells me in many Spanish speaking countries [Venezuela, Ecuador...?] its called "la quema del judío" which means "the burning of the Jew"). In Chile young children try to gather as many coins as they can, sometimes through asking strangers on the street and other times their parents basically fork over the money. Then they put the coins inside a straw, clothed, near life-sized effigy of Judas. On Friday night they're supposed to hang him, and on Sunday they set him on fire. As he burns the money is released and falls (Judas' guts falling?) to the ground and children collect it and supposedly keep or spend it.

As I've never been able to see it for myself, this year I made it my goal to actually witness this tradition. I am always open to the idea that what I've imagined in my head is nothing like the real thing, and for this I must always verify. Luckily, a group of people in Valparaiso set up an event that included a small parade leading up to the spot where they would "burn Judas." What follows is a short photo sequence of what I saw.

Short description: The parade had live music on a float that resembled Valparaiso, and the participants had interesting costumes and each danced around with a stuffed Judas. Then they were loaded on a cart and the parade weaved towards a spot where Judas had been hung up in an intersection. (I wonder if that shirt was a cooincidence...). Then they torched Judas and everybody watched him burn for about 15 minutes as kids ran up and tried to grab the coins that fell down amidst flaming pieces of Judas being flung off as neighbors on their balconies shook the chains he hanged from. It was not a particularly safe event, in my opinion.


  1. The shirt was the best part!!

  2. I've never seen this either and always forget about it until it's too late. I was in Concón this weekend and saw that someone had set a stuffed Judas figure out for sale, which seemed odd. I would have guessed that people usually made their own.
    Glad you got to see it in person this year- I'll have to make a special effort next year...

    And speaking of traditions, Have you seen Cuasimodo? It's always the Sunday after Easter and seems to be unique to the Central Chile area!