Hundreds of easter processions take place in Spain during the Holy Week around the clock drawing thousands of visitors.
About Easter in Spain (Semana Santa)
Easter week is a Catholic celebration. It is the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is considered a one-week holiday for schools, and a two-day holiday for workers. It is celebrated all over Spain, but it is most important in the South. Even though it is a Catholic celebration, everybody enjoys it. Years ago, it was just a religious feeling. Women wore black clothing, men always wore dark suits with a black tie, and everybody was so serious. Today people who enjoy it think more about having fun than celebrating.
On those days, religious images are displayed in the streets, and people follow them. These images, called tronos, are pieces of art. They are made of gold and silver and fine fabrics. They are decorated with a lot of fresh flowers. They are so beautiful. Forty or fifty men hold each trono on their shoulders all the way, which used to be between four or five hours, always at night.
Many visitors from all over the world come to Spain this week and enjoy this celebration.
The religious traditions that dominate the culture of Spain are never more evident than during the week of Semana Santa when there are thousands of processions throughout Spain. While every city or town has its own traditions, some of the most famous Holy Week events take place in Valencia, Cuenca, Valladolid, Murcia, Zamora, Cardoba and Sevilla. Sevilla is known as the “cradle” of these processions and is by far the most spectacular example of Holy Week in Spain.
The history of the present day traditions of Holy Week in Sevilla has its origins as early as 1248 when King Fernando III reclaimed Sevilla from the Moors. Hermandades had been formed during the reconquest to rescue injured soldiers from the battlefields and to bury the dead. The hermandades were organized according to the professions and jobs of the times. As the years passed and the Catholic Church reestablished its dominance throughout Spain, Sevilla’s organized brotherhoods of Catholic believers also grew. By the 16th century, Sevilla had established the tradition of processions to symbolize the journey of Christ to Calvary.
Semana Santa in Sevilla is arranged into eight days of processions beginning with Palm Sunday and going through Easter Sunday. Two separate schedules are observed for Good Friday, one beginning at dawn and the other later in the afternoon. Sevilla has a total of 52 hermandades that take to the streets in an organized procession called a cofradia. The cofradia begins with the Cruz de Gula and is followed by two rows of nazarenos carrying candles, banners, the book containing the rules by which the hermandad is governed and various religious relics of the church. These members of ‘the confraternity ‘Precede two pasos or floats, one representing a scene from the Pass;.on of Christ, and one representing the Sorrow of the Virgin Mary, A Paso Virgen weighs about 15qp kilos and a Paso Cristo weighs about 2000 kilos. Many members often are the carriers of the floats themselves but professional costaleros are also used. A marching band, consisting primarily of trumpets and drums, follows playing the traditional processional music. The images on the floats are mostly carved in wood by the great 17th-century Andalusian religious sculptors. Crowds line the streets and plazas as the cofradias pass by-some jovially, handing candies out to children, others in complete silence reminding us of the significance of their journey. They make their way from their home church to the Carrera Official-. the route from the Plaza de la Campana along the infamous tiled street, Calle Sierpes, by the Town Hall and finally passing th ‘ rough the immense Gothic cathedral to return home. As a procession enters its church after the long symbolic journey, a hush falls over the crowd as a lone man on a balcony sings an emotional saeta. In a throng of thousands one can hear a coin drop as tired costaleros sometimes scoot on their knees to carry enormous floats through small doors and to their resting place until the next year.
It is customary to wear new clothes on. Palm Sunday. On El Jueves y El Viemes San women dress in the traje de mantilia, all in black, representing the state of mourning begun by Christ’s death on Good Friday. Carnations are the traditional flowers used to decorate the floats. The favorite pastries for Semana Santa are torrijas and pestihos.
Semana Santa in Sevilla is an experience that one will never forget. Even for the non Christian, it is a sobering experience that draws us all to reflect on our own culture and the history of humanity. Amazingly, eight days pass with almost no sleep. A city of over a million people i united with their past and reaffirm their present. Amidst the confusing smells of orange trees i bloom, incense in the air, melted wax caked on the streets, and with the resounding beat of drum in the distance, one can begin to understand what it means to be “Sevillano”.
The considerable variants of the Holy Week are determined by the historical evolution of religious fiestas and, above all, by folk traditions which determine individuality and character. Malaga and Seville are the two Andaluz cities where the festivities are perhaps the best known for the sheer sense of spectacle and size. But there are differences, as noted hereafter.
Cadiz: Here like the rest of Andalucia, Holy Week is a religious event, which is, above all, festive and where a series of elements blend together to create a wonderful event. The most famous fraternity in Cadiz is that of Nazareno (nicknamed the “Grenuo”) whish is supposedly derived from the miraculous cure of various epidemics suffered by the local people. Easter Saturday’s parade features the fraternity of “Santo Entierro” which is the only one which is on wheels, steered by fourteen men.
Cordoba: A highly traditional week with a seriousness and depth which distinguishes it from other provinces, although, to tell the truth, it is becoming more and more boisterous. It has lost a great deal of its traditions and customs, like that of installing altars in the houses or the ringing of the church bells to announce the resurrection. In the houses the women used to play “almiretes” (bells) and pound on all types of utensils. However, the tradition of the brotherhood has been reborn and new fraternities are emerging.
Jaen: This city has a strong folk influence but is not so well know as some of the others. The most important day is Maundy Thursday when the best loved image is paraded that of the “abuelo” (grandfather) a full body sculpture ofa “nazareno”. During the procession the crowning momeent is the joining up of Nuestro Padre Nazareno (our Nazareno Father) and the “Virgen de Los Dolores” (Virgin of Pain). As well as the aforementioned “saeta”, there is a typical chant called the “tracto” which is particularly poignant and unique and just one of the reasons why Jaen is so special during Holy Week.
Malaga: One of the most spectacular features of the Holy Week in Malaga is that the floats are simply monumental and can weigh up to six tons. They are made to house velvet and gold drapes which reach up to some nine metres and cover the “dolorasa” (statues). The sheer size of the floats means that they cannot enter through the churches and therefore have to be assembled in the street. More than a hundred young men support each one. The “Virgen de las Penas” (Virgen of Sorrow) is not dressed in the traditional velvet robe but instead clad with natural flowers comprising more than twenty thousand carnations.
Seville: This city has some fifty five fraternities that parade with a total of one hundred and five floats. The images are mainly of the master sculptors, such as Juan de Mena, Martinez Montaner and J. Antonio Illanes. The night of Maundy Thursday is Seville’s main fiesta when their favourite Virgin “La Marcarena” and those of “Triana” and “El Gran Poder” emerge into the crown lined streets.
Easter in non-Christian Traditions
Easter is a time of springtime festivals. In Christian countries Easter is celebrated as the religious holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But the celebrations of Easter have many customs and legends that are pagan in origin and have nothing to do with Christianity
Scholars, accepting the derivation proposed by the 8th-century English scholar St. Bede, believe the name Easter is thought to come from the Scandinavian “Ostra” and the Teutonic “Ostern” or “Eastre,” both Goddesses of mythology signifying spring and fertility whose festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox
Traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and in colored easter eggs, originally painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring, and used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts
The Christian celebration of Easter embodies a number of converging traditions with emphasis on the relation of Easter to the Jewish festival of Passover, or Pesach, from which is derived Pasch, another name used by Europeans for Easter. Passover is an important feast in the Jewish calendar which is celebrated for 8 days and commemorates the flight and freedom of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt
The early Christians, many of whom were of Jewish origin, were brought up in the Hebrew tradition and regarded Easter as a new feature of the Passover festival, a commemoration of the advent of the Messiah as foretold by the prophets. (For more information please visit our Passover celebration – Passover on the Net
Easter is observed by the churches of the West on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or following the spring equinox (March 2I). So Easter became a “movable” feast which can occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25
Christian churches in the East which were closer to the birthplace of the new religion and in which old traditions were strong, observe Easter according to the date of the Passover festival
Easter is at the end of the Lenten season, which covers a forty-six-day period that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter. The Lenten season itself comprises forty days, as the six Sundays in Lent are not actually a part of Lent. Sundays are considered a commemoration of Easter Sunday and have always been excluded from the Lenten fast. The Lenten season is a period of penitence in preparation for the highest festival of the church year, Easter
Holy Week, the last week of Lent, begins its with the observance of Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday takes its name from Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem where the crowds laid palms at his feet. Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, which was held the evening before the Crucifixion. Friday in Holy Week is the anniversary of the Crufixion, the day that Christ was crucified and died on the cross
Holy week and the Lenten season end with Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection of Jesus Christ.