Semana Santa – Spain
17th April 2014
Semana Santa (‘Holy Week’) is famously celebrated each year all over Spain during the final week of Lent, to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the surrounding events. Arguably the European country that places most emphasis on this occasion, the main focal point of the Spanish celebrations involves large-scale processions through towns and villages by Catholic religious groups to mark the build-up to Easter. Despite its serious undertones, the most elaborate and enchanting Semana Santa festivities take place in the Andalusian regions such as Málaga, Granada and Seville, with more sombre, serious displays typical of cities further north like Zamora and Valladolid.
During Semana Santa, the streets fill with people and shops and businesses often close for the entire week. The processions, which take place on a daily basis, feature 17th-century floats topped with models of Jesus and the Virgin Mary and often a large cross. They depart from old churches, followed by altar boys carrying candles, and wind their way through the crowd-lined streets before ending up back at the church where they started. Some members of the processions wear long cloaks with pointed hoods, which are intended to represent people originating from Nazareth. A musical group is almost always present too. The ornately-decorated floats are carried by ‘costaleros’, who are supposed to encourage a mournful, quiet ambience in the days running up to Easter Sunday. When this day arrives however, the atmosphere changes and the streets are filled with music, ringing church bells, laughter, merriment and celebration. Semana Santa really is a fascinating and wonderful spectacle, quite on another level compared to how we celebrate Easter in the UK – it is a must-see if you are ever in Spain at this of year!