Ouro Preto: “Easter Tradition” Redefined

Danni Askew
April 25, 2014

One Wednesday after class, one of my professors asked me what I was planning to do for Easter. I explained that I didn’t have plans yet, but I was hoping to travel somewhere to make use of the long weekend. He immediately recommended that I visit Ouro Preto. I had never heard of this city, and even after he mentioned that it was in the state of Minas Gerais (which neighbors the state of Rio de Janeiro), I still had no idea where this place was. We didn’t talk much further, but before he left, he once again said that I needed to check out that town for Easter. Considering that it was the Wednesday right before Easter, I only spent about 30 seconds looking up pictures of Ouro Preto during Easter, and took an immediate leap of faith. I booked a hotel and bus tickets, and I decided to take a solo weekend trip to this mysterious colonial city.

My previous idea of “Easter Tradition” was to wake up, see if we were lucky enough to get little gifts from the Easter Bunny, dress up in a brightly-colored Spring dress, go to church with family, do an Easter egg hunt with the kids, have a huge family brunch, and then relax with family the rest of the day.

I knew this year would look different from usual, for the obvious reasons that I’m in a different country and my family isn’t here. In addition, any church I went to would speak Portuguese, and I was traveling alone. My reasons for traveling alone this long weekend were a little complicated,  but there were 2 main reasons. One was that, due to the very last-minute planning, most of my peers already had other plans or didn’t want to plan an entire trip that last minute, and nobody had heard of this small town. The other reason was that I’ve been a little overwhelmed with the chaos of the urban Rio lifestyle. I felt the need to have a quiet weekend away, to catch up on journaling, have time to process deeper realizations about humanity from my experiences the past 2 months, and travel at my own pace.

What I wasn’t prepared for, was the extent to which this weekend would be amazing.

Here is the “Easter Tradition” of Ouro Preto….

The evening of Good Friday,  hundreds of people from the town gather and watch an outdoor Passion Play. In recent years, this play has become televised and is streamed live for people to watch all across the state of Minas Gerais.

Saturday was pretty quiet in the town. I imagined that people were relaxing and spending time with families. But it allowed for peaceful time to explore many of the town’s beautiful churches and visit many cute little shops and cafés.

This is the São Francisco de Paula church, which sits on top of the hill on the edge of town. From here, you can see for miles, and catch a wonderful view of the city below and the mountains surrounding it.

Here is a view of the center of the Ouro Preto town. Fun fact: “Ouro Preto” translates to “Black Gold” because this town was formed in the 1700s during the gold rush. It is still famous for its mines, which I unfortunately didn’t get to explore.

After the sun sets on Saturday… this is when the magic happens.

People from all over the town (artists and non-artists, locals and tourists, individuals and families, from differing social classes and age groups) stay up all night and decorate the town. They use colored chunks of saw dust (and some other materials, like flower petals, palm branches, glitter, etc.) and create colorful artwork on a cobblestone path. The path is 4km long, and extends between 2 churches on opposite ends of the city. I was so intrigued that I took over a thousand pictures of the art, but here are a few of my favorites pieces:

And on Sunday morning, there is a huge parade processional along the decorated path…

Everywhere you look, you see children dressed up as angels…

And even many adults were dressed up in relevant costumes to recreate a biblical setting…

The church at the destination of the 2 hour long parade then held an outdoor worship service for all of the members of the community.

Pictures don’t do this spectacular tradition justice. The atmosphere is something that needs to be experiences to fully understand. I was amazed, that even though I was alone, I never felt alone. The community was so welcoming and lively and full of joy, that I was able to soak in their familial vibe and feel like I belonged in that community.

I think “Easter in Ouro Preto” should be on everyone’s bucket list.

It was another enjoyable and rejuvenating weekend in Brazil!!

Danni Askew

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I am a junior studying sociology, public health, mathematics, and leadership at the University of Minnesota. I&#39;m passionate about music and express that passion through an all-female a cappella choir on campus. In my free time, I enjoy playing classical guitar, percussion, piano, and writing music. During every summer, I work at a summer camp in northern North Dakota; I love outdoor adventures and working with kids.</span></p>

2014 Spring
Home University:
University of Minnesota
Explore Blogs