While Easter in the United States is generally a one day affair, in Spain the resurrection of Christ is not only celebrated but replicated every year during a week long festival known as Semana Santa or Holy Week. Of all the religious holidays in Spain, this one takes the cake. During the nearly three years that I lived there, I was both amazed and amused by the sheer number of long weekends I enjoyed due to the celebration of Saint Somebody or another.
Ironically, it could be argued that much of the Spanish population is agnostic at best, or as my friend Giselle used to call them, Catholic atheists. So, if you are a true believer, don’t come here expecting to find community or communion. Except for in one region at one particular time. It is the one place in which both the religiosity and the pageantry remain as strong as ever— Andalusia. Christian or not, if you are in any intrigued by this famous festival, this is the place to be.
During Semana Santa, there are several different traditions that transpire over the course of the week, but they all culminate on Easter Sunday. The most famous of these are Los procesiones. Throughout the region, there are several different brotherhoods (hombres de trono) responsible for the care, upkeep and carriage of los tronos. The tronos (floats or thrones) are massive statues of the Virgin Mary and/or Jesus usually made of wood and metal.
Depictions of the events of the Resurrection vary on los tronos. Those of Jesus often depict him in varies stages of his procession throughout Via Dolorosa, his crucifixion, and his resurrection. Those of Mary often show her in the throws of grief or cradling the corpse of her son. Every inch of the platform is covered in ornately decorated metal and are usually adorned with flowers and candles. With all that ornamentation, it is unsurprising that the average throne weighs nearly 2000 pounds.
Members of the brotherhood wear cloaks or capirotes gather at a church in order carry los tronos. The largest and most intense processions take place in Sevilla, with Malaga coming in a close second. Los capirotes may look familiar to American readers, but be assured that they have nothing to do with the American terrorist group who wears similar fashion.
These are a few of the pictures I took last year in Malaga on Easter during the processions.
On a much smaller scale, in the Balearic islands, there is another tradition just for Lent. The Friday after Carnival, there is the rebirth of the old woman with seven feet. For each week of Lent, you remove one of her feet. You continue this until Good Friday, when all her feet have been removed and she dies--until next year.
She carries with her a fish, oil and a grill. All serve as a reminder that you should not eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Suffice it to say, Menorca is an island, so eating fish isn't much of a sacrifice, pero bueno.
It is a tradition. S'Avia Corema also represents the death of Winter and the birth of Spring. She is a popular figure for children in the Catalán speaking regions of Spain.
A video of S'Avia Corema in action.