Easter in Spain
One of my favourite seasons after Christmas is upon us. The magical week that is Holy Week here in Spain. Semana Santa. Filled with tradition and beauty, the opulence and wonder that the processions bring to almost every town, village or city Whether you are an ardent churchgoer or you take part because it’s what is expected. Thousands every year prepare to take part in moving religious idols carrying them on their shoulders or dressing up to fulfil a part. Preparations start in October for the following years, seamstresses at the ready, trainers for the costaleros and musicians...
Nazarenos or penitentes
One major feature is the Nazarenos or penitentes. Those cone - hatted robed individuals form part of the procession dressed in colourful velvet or satin robes. Although they look like the Klu Klux klan, these have formed part of Spanish heritage from medieval times when the grand Inquisitor Torrequemada made those who had sinned in the eyes of the Catholic Church walk around their city giving penance by wearing the hood covered in images of the act they committed. The colours worn by the penitentes are determined by their brotherhood or Cofradia, each brotherhood have their patron saint, they choose different versions of the Virgin Mary or Jesus. In some larger cities they also have sisterhoods. Cartagena for example have sisterhoods, we once witnessed there the most fabulous procession where the sisterhood joined a brotherhood they amalgamated into the procession seamlessly without a fuss, and they continued on to the church together. The brotherhoods in most cities strive to outdo one and other, showing their ardent devotion to their religious saint.
Another aspect of the procession are the beautiful Manolas. These ladies dressed elegantly in black, upon their heads they wear the most impressive Lace Mantillas held in place by a Teja, a tortoiseshell comb that holds the lace mantilla in place usually by a brooch. The Manolas hold in their gloved hands a beautiful rosary with the symbol of the patron saint of their brotherhood as well as a pendant. Something we always aspire to look for is the high heels these ladies wear. How they even walk in them for 5 minutes let alone a long procession. You usually have the younger ladies in front, cute little cherubs followed by age right up to the formal dames.
The most impressive part of the procession is the thrones depicting different images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Usually they tell the story of Jesus, from carrying his cross, to being crucified, to his death and resurrection. These thrones are adorned with gold, candles and fresh flowers. Majority of the thrones are hundreds of years old and well looked after. The brotherhoods look after these thrones like they were the crown jewels, and if it rains they stay inside and the procession is postponed.
CostalerosThese thrones are carried in the procession by costaleros, named for the costal cover they wear on their head, or some use a cushion on their shoulder to protect it from the throne they carry. It is an immense honour to be chosen as a costalero, now open to both men and women they are usually dressed in black trousers and a white shirt and or a black blazer. They wear around their neck their patron saint on a cord matching their brotherhood. The costaleros get very close to one and other and they have to work in unison because they have to walk together whilst carrying their patron saint on their shoulders. In some areas the costaleros are hidden under a skirt which makes even harder to walk in sync with the rest of the team
In some towns the area they walk through can be quite tight and here begins a military-esque operation to move a huge throne..The grand master equipped with walkie talkie (got to keep with the times) will chime a bell this lets the costaleros know when to stop, relax and start. When navigating tight spaces, the costaleros sway with the throne and turn slightly eventually turning the tight corner. Having watched one it’s an impressive sight and a wonder to behold
Spectators and Food
The spectators dress up to the nines to watch their family and friends take part.
Now we can’t forget the food, not only is an obligation to have chocolate, other delicacies are Mona, a light sweet bread usually cooked with an egg in the centre. Nowadays, they sell it with a chocolate Easter egg in the middle, but some diehards still do it with a proper egg, covered in sugar it’s usually eaten on Good Friday.
Another sweet tasty morsel is Torrijas which is the Spanish version of Eggy bread, sweet with a hint of vanilla these fried eggy slices are essential for Easter
Cod balls or Buñuelos de Bacalao are a savoury treat for Easter. Our neighbour Marina in Albanchez used to make the most amazing buñuelos and she would always pop some into us at Easter. They were just delicious.
All in all, once you have seen the magic of an Easter procession you won’t forget it and each year you just have to go and watch them
A huge thank you to CLARE SHIRLEY (her husband works in the Rambla Cafe and she's the very helpful lady in the Visionlive Opticians next door) for such a wonderful guest blog. I am thrilled that she agreed to share this information with us, which is very informative. If you have any additional information or Easter-in-Spain stories to tell, please share them below in the comments