As one of the most memorable celebrations, Easter is a time full of incense and solemnity, pageantry and rituals, and in Andalusia, you will experience it like nowhere else in the world.
What is Semana Santa?
Spain is very famous for the incredible events that are held during Holy Week. The Semana Santa in Christianity is the last week before Easter Sunday. It includes the religious holidays of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday.
Easter is usually celebrated for a whole week before Easter Sunday with parades on the streets marching rhythmically in celebration of the country’s Catholic heritage.
The tradition dates back to the 1500s. Magnificent statues depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ are carried and paraded through the stunning winding narrow streets of villages, towns, and cities throughout the province of Andalucía.
In Seville, Malaga, and other towns of Costa del Sol, thousands of locals and tourists alike travel from far and wide to witness the processions for Semana Santa. Though the festivities vary by region, the one thing they all have in common is a passionate and beautiful tradition that attracts the curious and the devout each year.
The tradition of Semana Santa
The holidays are rejoicing in Andalusia although solemn elsewhere in Spain. The fascinating processions define them. The parades boast two adorned ‘pasos’-floats, one scene from Christ’s passion and the other of the Virgin Mary. These stunning creations almost like art masterpieces are accompanied by the music of drums, trumpets, and lavish flower decorations. Underneath the floats, you’ll barely be able to see the rows and rows of feet.
The processions are led by a brass band which repeatedly plays mournful marching tunes. The band keeps with the swaying rhythm of ‘costeleros’ – a group of up to forty men who carry and haul the floats on their shoulder controlling their motion. They are entirely in sync that the figures from the top are eerily as though they were walking in the rhythm of the music. These float bearers consider it an honour to be chosen and it’s a hugely respected role during Semana Santa. The religious outfits worn are distinctive with long robes and pointed cone hats the norm.
The endless rows of penitents or “nazarenos” walk alongside the float, most of them barefoot which is fascinating because some processions can last for up to 12 hours!
Importance of Semana Santa
Given the Spaniard’s strong ties to Catholicism, this is a significant period of the year even in these times of religious skepticism.
It’s an undeniably powerful spiritual experience as people gather along the paths to display faith, devotion or often pure awe.
Whether one is a religious person or not, these celebrations are an essential local tradition, and the Spaniards respect this fact to ensure that the tradition continues and is passed on to the next generation.
To church enthusiasts though, the processions go beyond traditional and are certainly part of their faith.
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