Burning of Judas

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Judas hung in effigy, Mexico City, early 20th century
Shooting at the gallows of the effigy of Judas Iscariot, Santorini, Greece, April 2010

The burning of Judas is an Easter-time ritual in many Orthodox and Catholic Christian communities, where an effigy of Judas Iscariot is burned. Other related mistreatment of Judas effigies include hanging, flogging, and exploding with fireworks.[1][2] Anthropologists generalize these types of activities as "scapegoating rituals". A similar ritual would be the hanging in effigy of Haman and his ten sons during Purim.

Though not an official part of the Easter liturgical cycle, the custom is typically a part of the reenactment of the story of the Passion that is practiced by the faithful during Easter. Customs vary, but the effigy of Judas is typically hanged (reenacting Matthew 27:5) on Good Friday, then burned on the night of Easter Sunday.

In many parts of Latin America this practice occurs on the eve of the new year as a symbol of ridding one's self of evil and beginning a new year in spiritual purity. Some communities observe this ritual using various effigies, including the biblical Judas (who betrayed Jesus). This custom, during which the effigy is burned on a stake, is called "Quema del Judas" ("the burning of Judas") in Uruguay and Argentina, and "Quema del Año Viejo" ("the burning of the old year.")[3] in other places.


Burning of Judas in Juiz de Fora, Brazil, 1909
Creating a Judas figure in form of a devil at a workshop at the Museo de Arte Popular, Mexico City.

The burning of Judas was once widely practiced across Europe, and is still practiced in parts of Greece,[4] Mexico,[5] Brazil,[6] Portugal, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela, Cyprus where it is called 'lambratzia',[7] the Philippines, Paraguay where it is called 'Judas kái' and elsewhere.

Judas burnings also took place in the district of Dingle, in Liverpool, England, in the early 20th Century,[8] until it was banned by the authorities. The burning of Judas is not traditional to England, although a very similar custom of burning Catholic rebel Guy Fawkes in effigy exists.


Video of a Judas figure being burned (really exploded) in Mexico City in 2015

The practice was once cited in the United States State Department's Religious Freedom Report for Greece.[9] The report incorrectly referred to the custom as the "burning of the Jew", whereas in Greece the term always used is "burning of Judas". In response, Archbishop Christodoulos, then head of the Greek Orthodox Church, denied such allegations, stating that this practice refers to the image of "Judas the traitor" and not Jews in general.[10]

In Latin America, despite the controversial nature of anti-Semitism associated with the "burning of the Jew" (one of the custom's many monikers), although the practice does exist in the above stated form it is not regarded as an act of hostility towards the Jewish nation or ethnicity but is simply representative of "evil", thus not differing in any way from the other effigies listed.[11]


  1. ^ Doane, William Croswell (30 October 2018). "The Book of Easter". Macmillan – via Google Books.
  2. ^ F.F.T. (1902-02-09). "Lenten Days In Mexico. - Curious Customs To Be Seen This Week In The Land Of Montezuma. - Article - Nytimes.Com". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-03-04.
  3. ^ es:Año viejo
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-03-26. Retrieved 2005-07-11.
  6. ^ Mendes, Carlos Pimentel. "Novo Milênio: Histórias e Lendas de Santos: Malhação do Judas. Quem lembra?". www.novomilenio.inf.br.
  7. ^ [2] Archived July 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ BBC. "Judas Burning".
  9. ^ "Greece".
  10. ^ ekathimerini.com | Greece is not racist, says irked archbishop Archived 2007-05-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ ":: Bienvenidos al web de Rodolfo Pérez Pimentel - Escritor Ecuatoriano ::". www.ecuadorprofundo.com.

External links

  • Wikibooks:The Golden Bough/The Fire-Festivals of Europe
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