Semana Santa

The Spanish take Easter seriously. As the name La Semana Santa implies, it lasts for a week, starting on Palm Sunday and it signals the beginning of the greatest festival in the Christian calendar – the commemoration of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection.

photo: public domain (Txo)

Most people participate in the fiesta. Processions take place in towns and villages throughout Spain and in most places la Pasión de Cristo is performed in the streets. The procession starts and finishes at the church during which some of the penitents walk without shoes, some on their knees, others are in chains and some walk flogging themselves.

Throughout Spain it is marked by ceremonies of holy images and passion plays that last all week especially in the Andalucian cities of Sevilla & Málaga. They are splendid affairs – penitents carry the magnificently ornate displays that comprise oodles of gold and silver set off with masses of flowers. The exhibits are extremely heavy comprising as they do of highly decorative floats supporting religious images. Brass bands, soldiers and señoritas, dressed in black, accompany the penitents. In fact, a large proportion of the population involve themselves in both the preparation and the weeklong celebrations.

Domingo de Ramos is the Spanish for Palm Sunday. On that day, the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem on a donkey is celebrated. Many children take part and the populace wave palm tree branches.

On the Monday, in the big cities, thousands of penitents follow the procession of Christ taken captive.

photo: public domain (Raizraiz)

On Jueves Santo – Maundy Thursday and Viernes Santo – Good Friday, every little town and village also get involved by bringing out their religious effigies, usually an image of Christ and the Virgin Mary. Maundy Thursday commemorates the ‘Last Supper of Christ’ whereas Good Friday is in remembrance of the crucifixion of Jesus.

The last procession of Santa Semana is on Domingo de Resurrección – Easter Sunday to you, representing Christ risen from the dead.

Of course, the build up to the events start many months before. There is much planning involved. The authorities have to plan for roads to be closed, traffic to be diverted and publicity of the event. Temporary seating has to be arranged and erected along the main thoroughfares. Women get to work with needle and thread, as they and their children must look their best during the forthcoming celebrations. Of course, the richer señoras do not bother with all that but they still have to purchase their outfits and plan what restaurant the family will visit for their celebratory meals.

Semana Santa float in Almería Cathedral
photo: Robert Bovington

However, the biggest enterprise is preparing the floats and even after this is done rehearsing the carrying of them as they weigh many tons. The hermandades – brotherhoods do this. A hermandad comprises members of a particular church that organize the yearly processions and the hermanos are the actual members. Some of the hermanos are Nazarenos, who dress in long, flowing robes and special pointed hoods, which hide their identity when they walk in the procession. The colours of the outfits change every day, black on day one culminating with white and gold on day seven.

Semana Santa float in Almería Cathedral
photo: Robert Bovington

photo: public domain (Romerin)

Semana Santa sketch in chalk by Goya (1824)

more blogs by Robert Bovington…

“Photographs of Spain”
“postcards from Spain”
“you couldn’t make it up!”
“a grumpy old man in Spain”
“bits and bobs”
“Spanish Expressions”
“Spanish Art”
“Books About Spain”

About Robert Bovington

Robert Bovington is an English writer of travel books. These include “Spanish Matters” and “Spanish Impressions” Robert Bovington was born in Brighton, East Sussex, the son of Leonard and Audrey Bovington. He is the first-born and has eight siblings – six brothers and two sisters. Having worked for many years in both the telecommunications industry and the teaching profession, Robert wanted to take on new challenges. He and Diane decided to relocate to Spain and, in 2003, the couple moved to Roquetas de Mar in sunny Andalucía. However, lazing on the beach was not Robert's idea of fun - he wanted to explore his new homeland. It didn't stop there! He was so impressed with Spain, its countryside, its historic cities and its culture that it inspired him to write about his experiences. Robert Bovington has been married to Diane for over thirty years. They have no children. However, Robert’s short marriage to Helene resulted in twin daughters Carole and Sheila. The author is also a grandfather and great grandfather. Robert met Diane when both belonged to the Crescent Operatic Society. Music is one of the author’s great passions. At primary school he sang in a choir in a concert of Bach and Handel. Another of his interests is football and for many years he supported Brighton & Hove Albion home and away. His favourite premiership team is Arsenal. Other interests include information technology, writing and ten-pin bowling.
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