Easter Week in Spain is a celebration like no other. Known as Semana Santa, the seven days between Palm Sunday and Easter, the streets come alive with festivals as the faithful join together to celebrate the life and death of Jesus Christ. Some regions celebrate with solemnity and reverence but the true experience is said to be in the passion, clamor and energy of the southern regions. Seville is the capital of Andalucía and has a renowned, passionate and vibrant Semana Santa as do many of the other cites of Andalusia.
Semana Santa alternately mourns the last days of the life of Jesus Christ as well as the grief of the Virgin Mary. During this week numerous parades or processions flow along the narrow streets with floats containing various scenes depicting the Savior’s last days. Statues, paintings or artifacts are brought forth and church brotherhoods will carry candles so the streets will be loud, bright and vibrant.
The floats, known either as tronos or pasos, can be very large and very old and are carried on the shoulders of costaleros. The costaleros are followed by the church brotherhoods and each float moves down the street to great noise and zeal. The costaleros feel that carrying these holy floats is the greatest of honors and a once in a lifetime experience. As they can weigh hundreds or even thousands of pounds it is a true labor of love and devotion to be a costaleros. Each of the 50 or so brotherhoods have at least two floats so the processions can seem endless.
The brotherhoods that follow the floats wear different colored robes and cloaks during the processions and are referred to as Nazarenos. They keep their heads covered as tradition says the penitent is to walk in secret. The Nazarenos will carry huge candles or crosses and their robes and cloaks add an aura of mystery to the procession.
On Good Friday, the floats leave the churches at midnight on Thursday and the costaleros carry them throughout the night until they arrive at the cathedral at dawn. This is the most somber of the celebrations as the crucifixion is acknowledged. Moments of meditation weave in and out of the celebrations as the faithful mix with the revelers to pay their respects to Christ and the Virgin. The celebration turns it most joyous on Easter Sunday as the faithful celebrate the acsension of Jesus to reunite with his Holy Father.
Semana Santa is one of the most important and largest celebrations in Spain and should be seen at least once. If you’re lucky enough to visit often it’s worth it to spend Holy Week in different regions of Spain to truly experience the variety of festivals. From over the top, almost Mardi Gras level exuberance, to reverence and contemplation, Semana Santa is a celebration of religion and culture like none other on Earth.
At Conexus International we embrace the many diverse traditions that are still alive worldwide. Our mission is to help you connect with the people who celebrate these traditions whether through our study abroad or cultural programs. We believe that it is through our unique approach to travel, and our passionate consortium of educators and professionals that you will appreciated the diversity and vitality of other cultures.