Easter, or the Holy Week as we call it (Semana Santa), is mainly a religious holiday in Spain – we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, on Holy (or Good) Friday and on Easter (or Resurrection) Sunday respectively. Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, which was held the evening before the Crucifixion. Easter is the most important date in the Christian calendar.
Thousands of processions symbolizing the journey of Christ to Calvary are held all over the country to the sound of trumpets and drums as well as that of religious chants like the beautifully sad Andalusian ‘saetas’. Sometimes at the beat of a solemn drum only or simply in a sobering and reverent silence that seizes your emotions even more. Many processions are held at night. The contrast between these somber processions and the joyful celebrations and parades of Easter Sunday is great. Seville (Andalusia) and Valladolid (Castilla y León) are among the cities that display some of the most famous and beautiful ‘pasos’. These are artfully made and decorated floats or platforms bearing sculptured scenes from the Passion. Some of them are monumental masterpieces and can weigh up to 2,000 kilos. They are often carried by men wearing pointed hoods, who are said to represent penitents too ashamed by the crucifixion to show their faces. Some men also carry huge crucifixes on their shoulders.
The further south you go, the more passionate it becomes. These parades draw crouds of visitors from all over the world, as it is a unique experience, whether you are religious or not.
Children have a long week free from school, while Thursday and Friday are bank holidays.
The traditional Easter sweets are ‘torrijas’ (eggy bread or French toasts with honey, cinnamon and, sometimes, red wine) and ‘pesti?os’ (fried pancakes with aniseed and honey) , though chocolate eggs and other figures are also present. This reminds me of a little childhood anecdote: we once placed a chocolate rabbit on the TV set and, before we knew it, it hat melted down to a kind of deformed, crippled figure – luckily, we hadn’t removed its decorative wrapping and bow!