I know I get many holidays here in Spain, but Semana Santa is probably the most important fiesta in Andalucia. Yes, I know I didn’t choose to hang our Sevilla or even in my pueblo Bollullos (Sevilla is a nightmare during this time). However, that doesn’t mean I missed the celebrations. OH NO, if anything I got to see the biggest celebrations when I came home.
So what is Holy Week? It is celebrated during the week that Easter Sunday is, but that is all that is really in common with our own Easter celebrations. This all traces back to the year 1521, when Marqués de Tarifa (some noble person) returned to Spain from the Holy Land. After his journey, he institutionalized the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross) in Spain and from that moment on this holy event was celebrated with a procession. Over time, the observance of the Via Crucis eventually broke up into the various scenes of the Passion, with the incorporation of portable crosses and altars. This would eventually lead to today’s elaborate processions.
This year Andalucia got ready for the weeks festivities early. The Brotherhoods that “guard” these religious statues (see my post about Jesus’ 75th Birthday), spend months before preparing the pasos (giant floats with Saints on them). They work tirelessly to decorate these floats with silver ornaments, flowers, candles, palms, etc. They also start practicing carrying fake floats with cement blocks, chairs, rocks, other heavy things they can find so that they are prepared to carry these floats that weigh a ridiculous amount. The members of the brotherhood that march in these processions are called nazarenos, roughly translated penitents, and some go even as far as to walk barefoot and/or in silence for the whole procession. These processions are just around the block and back. OH NO, these processions happen everyday and last anywhere from 7 to 14 hours (EN SERIO, REALAMENTE.) So these guys need to be in the best shape ever. So when these procession happen EVERYONE is out in the streets to watch the pasos go by, many people follow it until the procession is over, and of course everyone is dressed to the nine’s.
My first glimpse of the festivities started in Toledo, were we got to see the paso of Jesus’ journey carrying his cross:
Now here comes the interesting part. The Nazarenos, they represent the people of Nazareth. They are the more shocking part of the celebrations…why? THIS:
Yes, those outfits are similar to those of the Ku Klux Klan of the United States, however there is NO DIRECT connection to it. If anything it is believed the KKK got inspiration from these outfits. In Spain these outfits are worn to signify that shame that a Nazareno has for their sins committed throughout the year. They cover their face as a sign of mourning of Jesus. Men and women can be Nazarenos, and it is a huge status symbol in Spain. For many families it is a tradition to be apart of this group. In Bollullos there are a few different Brotherhoods, and each one has their own colors. Each Brotherhood carries a different paso during Semana Santa.
Although this week is still a fun fiesta, there are many people who take it serious. Churches are open for more mass times, more specifically for people to come confess their sins. There are times to come visit the pasos in the churches to kiss the extremities of some Virgin or Jesus and receive a blessing from the priest. In some procession, people will literally throw (ok not really…but still Spaniards are very dramatic) their children so they can touch or kiss the hand or foot of the religious figure.
Here are the processions that I literally stumbled upon in Bollullos:
Then comes Easter Sunday. Here is a video of what I was woken up to:
In the end, although Semana Santa is suppose to be a holiday, no one really rests because they are too busy celebrating! Although I am not Catholic and Easter is not a national holiday, I found these celebrations to be wonderful and very interesting. It is something COMPLETELY different than the United States, and la gente, the people, of Bollullos were so excited to share this tradition with me. People invited me into their homes for special family meals, and were so willing to share and explain their traditions during this special time. It felt like I was home with my Spanish family, even though home is in Minnesota. Even the religion teachers at school were very interested in what I thought of these parades…however they still don’t understand why I am not Catholic (that is a whole other blog post). In the end, I truly enjoyed Semana Santa and all the craziness it brought with it, and I look forward to seeing more procession like these during May (The Crosses of May celebrations).
Up next: My weekend in Amsterdam hanging out with Anne Frank and Van Gogh!