Holy Week (Semana Santa) is a very important time for the Spanish community and the biggest religious celebration of the year. Each year, Spaniards take time off work to remember the final days of Christ. The processions that take place during this time are known as ‘penance processions’ and the takers part dress up in the traditional capirote, a tall conical head dress and robe. This local dress, dating back to the Middle Ages, is worn by people atoning for their sins, their face covered as to not be recognised as sinners.
These elaborate demonstrations are accompanied by impressive floats and music and can be witnessed in most villages, towns and cities throughout the country in different interpretations. If you are visiting Spain during this time, these processions are a must see. Here are our stand out Semana Santa celebrations:
Disclaimer: this article was written during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please only attend these events following the safety guidelines provided in each specific area of Spain.
Semana Santa in Sevilla centers around the passion and death of Christ demonstrated through processions that travel around strategic areas of the city. One of the most emblematic processions is the procession of pasos featuring floats of lifelike wooden sculptures depicting specific scenes or images of a grieving Virgin Mary.
La Procesión de los Borrachos (the procession of the drunks) is different to any other parade in the country. In this procession the borrachos represent the jews that, for 12 hours, try to prevent Jesus from reaching his final destination by creating obstacles for the Nazarenes to stumble upon all through the night. The name procesión de los borrachos comes from the typical drink from Cuenca that the “jews” drinks on this evening, resolí.
One of the most important celebrations of Salamanca’s calendar year, the event received the acknowledgement of being a Fiesta de Interés Turístico Nacional in 1999. The beautiful city of Salamanca is the ideal place for the 10-day event that involves over 9000 people.
Medina del Campo
La Semana Santa of Medina del Campo is one of the oldest processions in Spain, originating from 1410. Here, the celebrations and processions last 9 days and are very traditional in style; large elaborate floats, music, lots of people and an electric atmosphere.
La Semana de Pasión of Malaga is colourful and exciting. The celebration involves thousands of people in traditional dress and the parades are full of music, incense scenting the street as the parade passes. Semana Santa in Malaga is much more of a joyous event compared to other reenactments.
The processions and Danza de la Muerte (dance of death) in Verges are a must see event. They take place on Easter Thursday evening and represent the inevitable walk towards death of every man. The first Danza de la Muerte took place in medieval times when Europe was plagued by the black death. The procession looks much like other similar processions that take place on that day, with one exception; five skeletons that dance to the beat of a drum and make for a theatrical experience.
The impressive processions in Lorca incorporate horses and chariot races into their Holy Week. The spectacular event is a competition between the two main brotherhoods of the city, the whites and the blues, who try to outdo each other in grandeur.