Celebrating the Day of the Cross in El Salvador, a historical tradition worth experiencing

Day of the Cross in El Salvador
Day of the Cross in El Salvador.

The day of the cross in El Salvador is celebrated every year on May 3rd. In homes across El Salvador, families decorate a cross made out of Jiote tree with fruits and paper ornaments. This Salvadoran tradition dates back to colonial times, and it marks the start of the rainy season or winter in the country.

During this celebration, markets all across the country are filled with handmade crosses of all sizes. At the markets, you will also find all types of paper decorations for the crosses, in addition to seasonal fruits.

The day of the cross in El Salvador is a celebration held in each house by individual families; nevertheless, some municipalities place their own cross either in front of the city hall building or the municipal park.

All the crosses used during this celebration are made of Jiote trees. This type of tree is found all over El Salvador as it survives in all kinds of weather and in different terrains.

Nowadays, Jiote crosses are used; however, there is no evidence that this tree was used to carve crosses during colonial times.

There is still no certainty if, since the beginning of the Christian practice of the Day of the Cross in present-day El Salvador, a green cross made of jiote wood was used.”

What do Salvadorans do During the Day of the Cross Celebration?

In each house, either in the front yard or back patio, a cross is placed by the family. This cross is created from the branches of the Jiote tree, a common tree in El Salvador.

Families decorate the cross with paper ornaments and different types of seasonal fruits. The family member can remove and eat any of the fruits; however, they must give thanks and pray before removing and eating the fruit.

Day of the Cross
Ornaments and fruits.

Why is the Day of the Cross Celebrated?

The day of the cross is a celebration to commemorate the start of the rainy season or winter; also, it is done to protect family members from the devil and give thanks to God for providing food.

Celebrating the Start of the Rainy Season or Winter

The Day of the Cross is a pre-colonial harvest celebration. This indigenous tradition celebrates the commencement of the rainy season or winter.

For individuals or families with indigenous traditions, this is the beginning when the earth’s flowers and fruits will start to emerge.

Protecting Family Members from the Devil

The elderly population believes that on this day, the devil gets into the houses and dances all over. However, if you have a cross outside, the devil will only dance in front of it.

The cross is placed and decorated outside the house; this is done to defend the family from the devil. Since the cross with fruit and decorations is outside, the devil will not enter their homes.

Day of the Cross in El Salvador
Day of the Cross. Photo by @cculturaahuacha

Giving Thanks to God for Providing

Some Salvadorans celebrate this day to thank God for providing them with food such as fruits and praying that the following harvest season will be a good one.

May is when many of the typical Salvadoran fruits begin to emerge; also, May is the month when most agricultural products such as corn are planted. It is customary to pray in front of the cross, give thanks, and then eat the fruits adorning the cross.

The Day of the Cross El Salvador

In summary, the day of the cross is an old Salvadoran tradition where people offer God the first fruits of the land and mark the start of the rainy season.

A cross with ornaments

In El Salvador, the Day of the Cross is a celebration that mixes the Spanish religious customs of the Holy Cross with the indigenous tribute to mother earth.