Easter in Spain; Understanding Semana Santa (Holy Week)

thrones, holy week, floats, easter, sevilla, semana santa, andaluciaSemana Santa (Holy Week) celebrates the week of Easter in Spain when many towns organize extravagant parades from Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos)  to Easter Sunday (Domingo de Resurreccion).

Semana Santa is a much celebrated event in Spain and many Spaniards take to the streets in the evenings for a variety of different processions. People carry statues of saints around on floats or wooden platforms and an atmosphere of mourning (which can seem quite oppressive to onlookers) and the Easter week processions end with Easter Sunday, a day full of light and colour when church and cathedral bells are heard ringing throughout the country.

 Semana santa procession, thrones, floats, holy week, easter spainThe processions are lead by religious brotherhoods or fraternities and sometimes up to two thousand members of a brotherhood take part, some carry candles, rods or banners depending on their level of seniority. The most senior is the president who carries a golden rod. These religious fraternities and brotherhoods are responsable for carrying the statues and organising the penitents and musicians. Music is important in the procedure. Bands of bugles and drums play marches and the procession stops at key points for a solo religious song: the saeta. The saeta (literally arrow to the heart) is an emotional cry and sung in the streets. Its plaintive laments echo through the streets making you live and feel the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord.

The Holy Week floats or ‘thrones’ feature sculptures and models of biblical scenes, one of the most popular being the Virgin Mother weeping tears of jewels. These are carried by people called “costaleros” and they are expected to carry these “thrones” with solemnity and grace. They use a small cushion, known as a “costal”, to protect themselves from getting sores from the wood rubbing against their skin during the long processions.

Semana santa outfits, nazarenos outfit, nazarenos costumeIn many cities you will find the floats being followed by people in outfits reminiscent of the klu Klux klan. Infact their clothes are meant to depict the Nazareños, people from Nazareth. The high point of the procession is the moment when art and religion merge; when the float leaves the street and enters the respective church. These sculptures of religious images are created by superb craftsmen. The best floats date back to the 16th and 17th centuries and can still be seen today. Semana Santa is a period that reflects the spirituality of the Spanish (particularly the Andulucian people) and it is an important part of Spanish culture.

There are variances in these Holy Week celebrations and some towns for instance, will preserve certain traditions more than others. The villages and hamlets generally hold their parades on Thursdays and Fridays, while the larger cities have week long celebrations and parades to attract thousands of people from far and wide. The most famous Easter celebrations that take place during Semana Santa happen in Andalusian towns such as Valladolid, Toledo, Segovia, Burgos, Zamora and Cuenca and also in one of the towns that houses a Babylon Idiomas school, Sevilla.

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  1. Pani
    1224 days ago

    Holy Week in Castilla y León (Zamora, Salamanca, Valladolid…) is one of the cultural and popular manifestations that attract the highest number of tourists.

    http://youtu.be/Pd78Nv9J_Ks

  2. Marta
    1224 days ago

    Segovia,Toledo,Valladolid,Burgos and Cuenca are not in Andalucia

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