A Full Information To The Semana Santa Competition, Spain
Of all the amazing Spanish festivals, Semana Santa (Holy Week) is one of the most breathtaking – and it’s well worth experiencing. This week-long religious celebration takes place annually in the last week of fasting, the week immediately before Easter.
Holy Week, which dates back to the Middle Ages when the Catholic Church decided to make the story of the Passion of Christ understandable for laypeople, became one of the most important celebrations in Spain.
The festival takes place in cities across Spain, the Semana Santa is notable for its epic religious processions that involve thousands of people – both locals and visitors. It is not for nothing that Holy Week has become one of the most valuable cultural and traditional goods in Spain.
What is Semana Santa?
Semana Santa is the Spanish festival of Holy Week before Easter. It is celebrated across the country with religious brotherhoods holding penitential processions in the streets.
Semana Santa, traditionally held from Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) to Easter Sunday (Domingo de Pascua), is the largest religious festival of the year in Spain and is historically used to explain the story of Jesus to laypeople.
Where does Semana Santa take place?
While the Semana Santa celebrations take place across Spain, the most famous processions take place in Andalusia – especially in cities like Seville and Malaga – and in the region of Castile and León.
Each city has its own unique Holy Week celebrations, which are usually different from each other. While in Seville the celebrations are more extravagant and lively, the Castilla y León region has more solemn processions perfect for the religious traveler.
Aside from Seville and Malaga, there are other cities that host the Semana Santa celebrations, including Toledo, Segovia, Avila, Salamanca and Valladolid.
When is Semana Santa?
Holy Week takes place the whole week before Easter Sunday. While the exact date changes each year, Semana Santa usually falls in late March and / or early April.
In Spain, the celebrations begin on Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) and last until Easter Monday (Lunes de Pascua).
What happens in Holy Week?
One of the most important parts of Semana Santa are the religious processions. Every day of Holy Week, the local religious brotherhoods parade through town, followed by the mesmerizing sounds of drums and coronets from the marching bands.
The processions consist of endless rows of Nazarenos or penitents walking slowly around with candles, torches, wooden crosses and lavish “pasos” or chariots.
Considered one of the main elements of the Holy Week processions, these ornate floats are adorned with religious statues depicting scenes from the Gospels relating to the Passion of Jesus Christ and the sufferings of the Virgin Mary. Incidentally, many of these wagons were carefully crafted by renowned Spanish artists and have been owned by the brotherhoods for centuries.
Another fascinating feature of Holy Week processions is the general use of the penitential robe (nazareno) for some participants. Although similar to those of the Ku Klux Klan, they are completely independent. These long robes with pointed hoods (capirote) were widespread in the Middle Ages. Some historians even believe that during the Spanish Inquisition, sinners were required to wear cone hats and walk the streets as a form of public humiliation.
In Spain, the style and atmosphere of the processions vary from city to city – in Seville, for example, the religious parades feature spectacular flamenco performances (saetas) sung from the balconies in the city’s narrow streets.
Easter Traditions Week
Although the processions are the bulk of Semana Santa, this religious festival also encompasses a delightful maze of traditions. One of the things that Spaniards look forward to the most is the torrijas, a Spanish-style French toast eaten at Easter. They are made from bread dipped in milk and egg, then fried and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar or honey.
There are also the famous Easter cakes or Monas de Pascua, which are typically eaten in the regions of Catalonia and Valencia. Coated with pieces of candied fruit and sugar, they can either be ring-shaped or in the shape of animals like snakes, lizards, and monkeys.
Another popular sweet treat eaten during Semana Santa is the bueñelos, which are similar to small donuts. They are fried and sprinkled with sugar, and in Valencia the bueñelos are made with pumpkin.
Semana Santa is also an important time for families, especially on Easter Sunday, when people usually go to mass and have a nice meal at home with their loved ones.
The best travel destinations for Semana Santa
Of all the Spanish regions, Andalusia is one of the best to experience Semana Santa, with cities like Malaga, Granada and Seville hosting the largest and most opulent processions.
In Seville, for example, the magnificent processions with centuries-old floats, thousands of Nazarenes, can last up to 12 hours. From time to time you can hear spontaneous saetas – typical Spanish religious music with flamenco influences, which is usually played from a balcony. The city hosts almost 60 processions with more than 50,000 participants.
The Holy Week of Malaga was declared interesting for international tourism in 1965 and is visited by thousands of visitors from all over the world. In fact, Malaga-born actor Antonio Banderas tries every year to spend the Semana Santa in Malaga, where he leads the procession of the Virgin de las Lágrimas y Favores (Virgin of Tears and Favor).
The Semana Santa is so important to Malaga that the city is home to a museum dedicated to the celebration – the Museum of Holy Week of Malaga, which displays processional vestments, thrones and art related to the festival.
In Granada, the processions are simpler but beautiful and are framed by the city’s stunning surroundings.
If you don’t want to be in the center of Spanish Holy Week, you can consider other cities in Andalusia such as Cordoba.
Castile and León
While the Semana Santa in Andalusia has a more “festive” atmosphere, that in Castilla y León is far more festive. Apart from the fact that Holy Week in Castile y León starts on a different date – two Fridays before Easter Sunday – there are far fewer processions.
But even if the Semana Santa in Castile and León is rather strict and religious, the festival is still one of the most important cultural assets of the region and attracts thousands of tourists every year.
León, Salamanca, Segovia and Avila, Zamora and Valladolid are some of the cities in Castile and León that are praised for their Holy Week celebrations.
The historic city of Toledo in Castile-La Mancha is a half-hour train ride from Madrid and is another great option for those looking to experience Semana Santa.
The city hosts some of the most impressive celebrations in the country that last over two weeks!
From Friday of Pain to Easter Sunday, 20 solemn processions parade through the city’s narrow cobblestone streets, followed by crowds of people meandering through ancient buildings that are 2,000 years old.
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