Most people come to Spain to enjoy the weather and the beaches. However, the country has so much more to offer. No matter what time of year you find yourself on Spanish ground there will be one event or another. One exceptionally interesting experience is Easter or Semana Santa – the Holy week.
While Easter goes pretty unnoticed in many places except for the children’s traditional Easter egg hunt, in Spain, and Andalucía in particular, Semana Santa is a big emotional event even for non-Catholics. For the seven days that it lasts people gather in large numbers to see the processions. The streets are blocked and the atmosphere is loaded with emotion as the processions consisting of hundreds of part takers centered on the float passes through the cities.
This spectacular event is coordinated by the religious fraternities and brotherhoods. They have the responsibility of maintaining the statues as well as coordinating the penitents and musicians. The rhythmic sound of the drums not only draws in the audience, but also helps the “costaleros” who carry the weight of the floats and their sculptured representations of the biblical scene coordinate their steps as they hold up the heavy burden for hours and large distance.
The high point of the procession is when the float exits and enters the church and is a moment when art and religion seem merged into one. A large part of the procession is made up by the “nazarenos” dressed in tunics, big pointy hoods and masks and women dressed in traditional costume. Often many children will take part, which is a big and proud moment for them and their parents. Often, in the bigger cities, several processions will be taking place at the same time. Considering the magnitude of the event they are bound to cross each others way on their routes. It’s a spectacular of it’s own to see how the floats will ‘salute’ each other before continuing their rhythmic marches.
It’s a family event with food, toys, nuts, baked potatoes and sweets sold on every corner. Balloons are attached to every second pushchair and plastic trumpets are sold in large numbers. However, the emotional and serious look on many faces as the processions pass by makes it evident that Semana Santa to many holds an importance that goes well beyond entertainment value. It’s a tradition that has been going on year after year for hundreds of years. Some floats date back to the 16th and 17th centuries and are still used today.
There definitely is an atmosphere about Semana Santa that makes it worth the experience, especially in the evening when the lights add an extra element to the mystery. The one of these things were you might say ‘you have to be there’. The visuals, the music and the attitude of the spectators create an emotion that has to be felt not described.