Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is one of the most important religious celebrations in Spain. It takes place in the week leading up to Easter and is celebrated in cities and towns throughout the country.
During Semana Santa, parades and processions are held to commemorate the events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These processions involve “Hermandades” groups of people who are members of a specific religious brotherhood. All the members of a hermandad, called “cofrades” dress up in elaborate robes to carry ornate floats with images of the Holy Mary, Jesus Christ and other religious figures related to the Passion of Christ.
One of the most notable aspects of Semana Santa is the music that accompanies the processions, well, the music and the silence. The city stands still in total silence when the floats are walking, suddenly the band will perform some of the traditional hymns, creating a somber and reflective atmosphere. The sound of the drums, mark the tempo of the procession. This tempo is much slower than our heart bits, so it pulls you down and it kind of makes you move in slow motion. The scratching sound of the wind instruments reminds me of the solemnity of military marches.
To make this even more dramatic, many of the procession take place at night. Most of the streets where the procession take place will either turn off the streetlights or dim them, so it is almost completely dark. The cofrades and the floats are lighted by the candles and torches that they carry. It really is breathtaking!
If you have been following me for the last year, you know by now that in Spain we celebrate everything with food, and of course Semana Santa is not an exception.
There are many traditional foods that are consumed to celebrate Easter. One of the most popular dishes is torrijas, which are like French toast but made with a special type of bread that is soaked in milk, cinnamon, and sugar, and then fried.
Another traditional food eaten during Semana Santa is bacalao, or salt cod served in any style, One of the most common one are the cod fritters. It is a staple dish during this time of year.
In the south of Spain one of the most famous sweet treats are the “pestiños“, which are a type of fried dough that is flavored with honey, sugar, and sesame seeds. This might sound to you as a Moroccan dessert and you are right, it is a direct heritage from the Muslims who settled there in the eighth Century.
In every city in Spain you will find processions some bigger than other ones, but the ones that are the best ones are the ones in Seville and in Toledo. If you are planning to visit, book your hotel in advance.
SEMANA SANTA EN SEVILLA
Seville is one of the most famous destinations for Semana Santa celebrations in Spain. During this week, the city comes alive with processions, music, and other festivities that attract visitors from all over the world.
The processions in Seville are some of the most elaborate and well-organized in Spain. The processions can last for hours, and they often involve multiple cofradías that take turns carrying the statues throughout the night.
In addition to the processions, there are many other traditions associated with Semana Santa in Seville. Many people choose to fast or give up certain luxuries during this time, and it is also common to decorate churches and homes with flowers and other decorations.
Semana Santa in Seville is an unforgettable experience that combines religion, culture, and tradition in a unique and meaningful way. Whether you are a devout Catholic or simply interested in learning more about Spanish culture, this holiday is an excellent opportunity to experience the rich history and traditions of Seville and Spain as a whole.
SEMANA SANTA EN TOLEDO
Toledo, one of the most historic cities in Spain, is another great destination for Semana Santa celebrations. During this week, the city becomes alive to celebrate Jesus Christ´s death.
One of the most notable aspects of Semana Santa in Toledo is the role of the city’s cathedral. Throughout the week, the cathedral plays host to a variety of events and ceremonies, including Masses, processions, and other religious services. The cathedral is a beautiful and historic building, and it is an important symbol of the city’s religious and cultural heritage. Let´s not forget that Toledo was home for the three most important monotheistic Religions and these Christian processions had to overshadow the traditions of the other two religions (Muslims and Jewish).
The processions in Toledo are a bit more austere than the ones in Seville, but I would say that the quality of the floats is better. Those sculptures, representing the stages to the cross are so realistic and vibrant, that take you back to Jerusalem in Jesus Christ times.
One more thing regarding Semana Santa in Toledo, as most of the churches are open, you will be able to visit El Greco´s most iconic paintings.
If you are planning a trip to Spain to be here during Holy Week, you might not know that Semana Santa is not a fix date in the calendar, it depends on the moon. Here is the rule: Easter is the Sunday immediately after the first full moon after the March equinox. Now that I realize, I am Catholic and Spanish, and I never know when Holy week is…. It is too difficult; thank God we have Saint Google. 😉
Here is a YouTube video with some Semana Santa music.