Celebrating the Day of the Cross in El Salvador - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Kriss’s children with the family’s cross. The banner says, “Blessed are you, Lord, for the fruits you give us.”

On Sunday, May 3, Salvadorans celebrated Día de la Cruz, the Day of the Cross. Tradition has it that if this feast isn’t celebrated correctly according to proper ritual, the devil will come and dance in your home. Since I was a bit ignorant about the exact customs of this celebration, I thought I’d better ask a few people how they did it and what the celebration means to them.

Norma’s cross

Norma told me not to worry: the devil would go easy on me since I’m a foreigner. She then explained that you make your cross from jiote branches and plant it in the garden of your home. “That has to do with Jesus,” she said, “because where you plant a branch from the jiote tree, it grows. Imagine, the cross becomes a tree. It’s a symbol of renewal and resurrection. It doesn’t die.”

After planting the cross, she and her father decorated it with crepe paper and put mangos, jocotes and oranges all around. Norma explained, “This is how we ask God to bless us with rain and give our fields much fruit. We also use the bark of the tree as medicine to heal stomach ailments, and today my father and I put the coronavirus at the foot of the cross. May God have mercy on us, and may we soon have a cure.” You could feel the cry in her voice.

Later in the afternoon I asked Kriss how she celebrated the day. She told me that it was a family day. “The kids loved it because we got lots of fruit, and they ate a good share. Afterwards we always take a picture of them next to the jiote cross. It’s amazing to compare the photos and see how they grow each year.”

Cooped up in quarantine, I sometimes feel I’m losing touch with people, like life is passing me by. But today I’m reminded that the branch must go into the ground and lie fallow in darkness, and then the breath of creation grabs hold and makes a new life.

Thank you, Norma and Kriss, for sharing this resurrection story with me.


Rick Dixon
Rick Dixon is a Maryknoll lay missioner working in several migrant ministries at the U.S.-Mexico border in Mexicali, Mexico.