Soñando Sunday: Semana Santa in Spain

 Seeing a processions is a quintessential  Semana Santa  experience.

Seeing a processions is a quintessential Semana Santa experience.

Today we are continuing the part of Soñando Sunday that steps away from a specific place to visit and instead focusing on a very special celebration here in Spain—Semana Santa!

Semana Santa is a really important time as it is the holy week leading up to Easter. This begins on Palm Sunday (Domingo de los Ramos), followed by all the “holy days,” most notably Jueves y Viernes Santo, all leading up to Easter Sunday or Domingo de Resurrección. Each day is filled with a variety of processions, each city and village having some of its unique and special variations.

Because Semana Santa is a national holiday, there is a lot of time off from work to observe it. Schools and public institutions will have the entire week off whereas private businesses have off starting on Thursday. In some cases, Easter Monday (the day following Easter) is observed as a day off as well, but this is not an official holiday in Spain.

Keep in mind that this holiday period is a great time to travel...but everyone is thinking the same as you! Don’t be surprised to find that flights and lodging may be more expensive or limited at this time and book whatever you can in advance. Likewise, when it’s a holiday in Spain, it’s a holiday for everyone! It will be very difficult for you to find stores open so be sure to stock up on everything you will need for the weekend by Wednesday!

 

Traditions

Procesiones: Carried out all throughout the Holy Week at different times and along different routes, processions are a form of celebration that you’ll surely come across during Semana Santa—whether you plan to or not. Unlike parades at other times of the year, these processions move quite slowly (and also go on quite long) as they include incredibly heavy pasos (think intricate and gold-plated sculptures, in many cases) with Easter-relevant figures or scenes being carried by hand throughout the city. It’s a humbling and unique experience to see firsthand and we’ll be sharing more details to help you understand the significance of each of the participants in the procesiones shortly!
 

La mona de Pascua: Similar to the roscón de reyes that is prepared specifically to be eaten on Three King’s Day, la mona de Pascua is a special dessert in connection with Easter. Although it can take on a variety of forms, as well as be made with or without chocolate and/or a cream filling, the element that ties all of the varieties together are the whole eggs that are baked into the cake. Nowadays, it is common to paint the eggs and add colorful decorations, like feathers. A chocolate version is especially popular in Cataluña and other traditional versions are characteristic of the Murcia, Valencia, Aragón, and Castilla-La Mancha comunidades. In most regions, la mona is traditionally eaten on Easter Monday but, of course, customs vary from place to place.
 

La iglesia: As we will discuss in further detail shortly, Spain has a unique relationship with its Catholic roots. The cultural and religious past of Spain encompasses important ties to Judaism and Islam, but Catholicism is currently the most-represented religion in the country. Approximately 70-75% of the population identifies as Catholic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much on a daily basis. At Easter, however, the Catholic population really seems to go-all-out and show their pride, getting very involved in the processions and masses throughout the week. As in many countries where Christianity is prevalent, Easter Sunday is one of the biggest days for church-going in Spain.


Of course, these are only the basics, but with this information you'll be prepared to understand a bit more about the Easter celebrations that you'll find at this time of the year. Have you experienced Semana Santa in Spain? What was most shocking or interesting for you? Be sure to check out the photos from Dani's Semana Santa too!