Spanish Semana Santa, Holy Week, is a religious public festival.
In difference to Holy Weeks in central Europe, with strict reflection and fasting, Spain celebrates the reawakening of nature after winter, a story originating from the Christian story of the Resurrection — combined they have developed into artistic spectacles; processions and celebrations in the streets of Spain.
In the first light of dawn crowds gather to the cut off streets to see tunics with pointed penitents’ hats parade through their town. Every church has a procession with own crucifixers, foghorns fixed on carts, drummers, and the most important; life-size holy figures of Virgin Mary and/or Jesus. Every churches’ processions are scheduled and programmed around the week’s celebrations (at different times, depending what church one belongs to).
Around 30-50 men (depending on the weight and size of the figure) carry these gold-plated figures throughout their town, a sight for anyone to experience.
You truly feel the atmosphere of respect, faith and loyalty, to all those who participate and to Spanish culture and tradition.
The beauty of this Holy Week is how traditions vary from town to town, different colors and detailing (laces, draping, etc.) of costumes and straw shoes. Some towns, more than others, make sure every detail of their attire is traditional and correct.
Like the celebration Three Wise Men (6th January), where they throw candy to children (and adults), Semana Santa is a hugely respected festival where nothing is sold, but things (including candy) are given away.
Some brotherhoods hand out large amounts of candy, cookies, hard-boiled eggs and Easter chicks from their ‘barrigas’ (‘fat bellies’) made of sacks tied together to the spectators waiting on the side of the roads.
According to the old maxim “He who does not give out candy during Holy Week will not be forgiven by God and cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” A very particular statement — if you do come by Spain during Holy Week you can assure you will get some candy.
Celebrations begin on ‘Palm Sunday’ (13th April 2014) and continue until ‘Easter Sunday’. A week itinerary of processions and celebrations, you should be able to get your hands on a programme from any Tourist office (and it may just be in English too!). Semana Santa dates 2014 (not processions or celebrations):
13th April, Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday)
14th April, Lunes Santo (Holy Monday)
15thApril, Martes Santo (Holy Tuesday)
16th April, Miércoles Santo (Holy Wednesday)
17th April, Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday; Tenebrae)
18th April, Viernes Santo (Good Friday)
19th April, Sábado de Gloria (Glorious Saturday)
20th April, Domingo de Resurrección (Easter Sunday)
21st de April, Lunes de Pascua, festivo en algunas comunidades
(Easter Monday, only celebrated in certain regions)
During and specially after Semana Santa, to catch up, share and discuss the week’s processions, families and friends gather around the dinner table and enjoy some typical Holy Week dishes (and some wine too of course).
Typical dishes, and renown as ‘Semana Santa food’, are usually fish (cod for example) dishes, with seasonal vegetables (stuffed or roasted) and salads with eggs.
On Semana Santa everyone wants to be out on the streets celebrating and witnessing the processions and celebrations, nobody is expected to stay at home and cook for hours on end.
If there are some more specific details you wish to know, you can always visit and read about Semana Santa on trusting Wikipedia: More facts about Semana Santa
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