Semana Santa or Holy Week Is One of the More Important Events in Spain:
Easter for many is celebrated over the Easter weekend, however in fiesta-obsessed Spain, the Spanish Easter is an entire week of festivities known as Semana Santa, or Holy Week. During Holy Week, festivals can be seen throughout the whole of Spain. The most spectacular of the Semana Santa celebrations are in the cities of Andalucia, such as Seville, Granada, Malaga, Murcia and Valladolid.
Semana Santa in Spain
Holy Week celebrations in Spain are not just about doleful repentence. In Andalucia for instance, the emphasis is more on celebrating the central figures of Christianity. Processions are a common feature of Holy Week activities that take place in every town in the region. In these emotive processions, floats carry unique and creative constructions that contain a figure of Jesus, Mary or an important saint. The times, participants and styles may vary from town to town, but almost all have some common themes.
Holy Week Celebrations
Local Spaniards are not the only participants of Holy Week. Semana Santa is one of the more important religious events in Spain and church officials from Rome and elsewhere come to take part in it. The event is also a tourist attraction, with visitors from around the world coming to merely witness or participate in the Holy Week festivals.
Typically, streets are closed off to allow for the floats and the hundreds or sometimes even thousands of people who precede or follow the procession. The festival is marked by religious figures dressed in Church finery carrying candles and directing the parade.
The floats are the focus of the event and they carry statues of saints such as Saint Rocco who is regarded as a patron of the sick. The hopeful will often toss money onto the float, seeking relief from ailments or improvement. Other floats may depict Biblical scenes, early Christian stories, or any of the thousands of different images that evoke memories of tales that have been passed down through hundreds of generations. There is the Gitano del Polvorín, the Virgen de la Victoria and La Macarena de Sevilla, among many more.
The Ongoing Tradition of Semana Santa
Holy Week processions, like the stories, are an ongoing tradition that has its roots in the early Middle Ages. Going as far back as 1,500 years ago the faithful annually walked with the platforms to celebrate the Annunciation, the Sermon on the Mount, the Rising from the Dead and other well-known scenes from the Bible.
However, during the period when Spain was under the Islamic Moorish rule, Berbers, Arabs and others from North Africa, Semana Santa festivals were forbidden. Not surprisingly, after the Reconquest by the Catholic kings and the re-establishment of Christianity in the country, the festivals started anew. In Andalucia, Holy Week celebrations have been a regular event, with few interruptions, ever since.
Visiting Spain During Holy Week
The celebrations ramp up a notch during the final few days before Easter, so if you are planning to join in the Holy Week celebrations, this is an especially good time to visit.
Musicians will play and sing as others carry banners, followed by Nazarenos dressed in penitential robes and hoods. At the end of the procession, which often takes place from dusk to the following dawn, the float enters its individual sponsoring church and a hush comes over the crowd, signifying the culmination of Semana Santa.
Hotels in Spain
Semana Santa is a very busy time in Spain and if you are planning on visiting during Easter week, do book your hotel well ahead of time. Cities like Seville are packed during Holy Week and popular hotels may become fully booked quite early.