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Semana Santa, or Easter week, explained: Spain's unique celebrations
19 April 2019 @ 19:48

FOR those of you who haven't opted to spend Easter on the Mediterranean, this weekend is likely to see you stocking up creme eggs in the fridge and, if you have children, spending a fortune on the larger versions lining the shelves at Tesco, making daffodil-shaped Easter bonnets, and something to do with rabbits (we can't remember, exactly). But if you're in Spain for the holidays, the experience awaiting you from tonight (Good Friday) is radically different - even if you're based near enough to a British-run supermarket to have bulk-bought hot-cross buns and kept Cadbury's in business for the rest of the year.

Many of Spain's fiestas have at least a tenuous religious link, even if it's only because they're celebrated on the day of a given saint; often, in fact, the biblical foundations of a Spanish festival are completely unknown even to those in the thick of it, but this doesn't spoil their enjoyment of them or reduce their participation. You don't need to have been to catechism to dance to live music or DJs until sunrise, indulge in public paellas, drink too much or don elaborate, psychedelic costumes and parade round town serenaded by marching bands.

But Semana Santa, or 'Holy Week', is serious stuff. Easter is when religion takes centre stage and, if you're an atheist and planning on watching these haunting, daunting parades, we recommend you read up on the story of the crucifixion first to give yourself some background knowledge.


Preparing for Easter: from the Carnival to the Passion of Christ

Six weeks ago, you may have been lucky enough to pop to a Carnival and let it all hang out, or just watched the splendid, often hilarious, fancy-dress costumes from the sidelines; this, along with Shrove Tuesday in the UK, or 'pancake day', is a final fling before the start of Lent - a season of abstinence in the run-up to Easter to mark Jesus Christ's 42-day fast in the desert, when he successfully resisted the temptation by the Devil to turn the rivers into wine and the rocks into bread. This is all part of the modern-day warm-up for Easter weekend, a series of events that greet the early spring and re-enact the winter of Jesus' life, which you may have seen traces of in Spain or in your home country. Five weeks after the Carnival is Palm Sunday when, in the UK, those who go to church receive a cross woven from a palm leaf, but which, in Spain, is the subject of a street parade with brass bands and locals carrying huge, intricate and decorative fans made from dried palm, or entire branches from the trees; this depicts Christ's final entry into Jerusalem before he is crucified, riding a donkey - at the time, the most humble form of transport - along streets carpeted with palm leaves to soften them for his mount's hooves.



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