If you’re an expat who has recently arrived in Spain, you’ve relocated at the perfect time!
You’re probably aware at how cultural and lively the Spanish are – they’re world famous for hosting countless colourful celebrations and fun festivities all throughout the year, but things are just starting to kick off now.
To get your first real taste of traditional Spanish fiestas, you should really go out and join in on your local Semana Santa celebrations.
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What is Semana Santa?
Semana Santa, which we know as Easter Week, is the annual commemoration of the Passion of Jesus Christ. A noisy and passionate Catholic religious festival, it sees brotherhoods from churches all over Spain perform processions around their villages, towns and cities, during the last week of Lent.
This year, the festivities run from Palm Sunday, on March 20, to Easter Sunday, on March 27.
Why is it so special?
Whether you’re religious or not, there’s always something to enjoy when you join in the epic celebrations of Semana Santa, honestly, you won’t come across anything like this anywhere else in the world.
Whilst beautiful and majestic, these celebrations aren’t meant to arouse excitement and entertain people through cheerful music, colour and sparkling lights, they’re meant to instil religious passion, and evoke a sense of wonder, and humbling devoutness.
You’ll find that the air becomes thick with the intoxicating smells of orange blossoms, bees wax and incense, and bustling crowds, dressed up in their finery, may leave you jostling for room, but you’ll watch in amazement as elaborate processions cascade through the winding streets of your new home.
Marching bands play music which will stir your soul, and images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ will touch your heart. Impressively beautiful floats, depicting scenes from the bible, add to the splendour, and the eerie costumes of the Nazarenos will transport you back into a strange, archaic and religious world.
Where is the best place to visit to see a truly amazing Semana Santa celebration?
Although the style and mood of Easter Week varies from place to place, either because of the procession’s nature, or the location of the church, the basic components remain the same.
For a more glamorous celebration, the region of Andalucia hosts some breathtaking fiestas, whereas those in Castile-Leon are more solemn; after all, this is a religious holiday.
Here are our Top Three locations to experience a spectacular Semana Santa.
The Easter Week celebrations in Mojácar are exquisite, it’s a place where you can really feel the strong community spirit.
Processions of blacks, dark blues and rich purples are set against the glistening backdrop of Mojácar’s white washed houses, and glorious choral singing fills the air.
The celebrations here exude a mournful beauty, but things liven up in the evenings and the small village normally hosts a number of magical events for children to enjoy.
Seville arguably holds some of the most elaborate processions during Easter Week, and it’s at night time when these festivities really come alive here.
Renowned for its unique wooden pasos, these lifelike painted sculptures, weighing more than a metric ton, are carried by a large group of costaleros, men wearing headdresses which resemble sacks, which makes it look like the statues are walking on their own.
The air becomes thick with smoke, and inspiring classical music is played loudly as the processions continue from dusk til dawn. For many in Seville, and across Andalucia, Semana Santa is more than just religious processions, as Easter Week marks the arrival of Spring and many bars and restaurants will host parties, to continue celebrating in their own way.
- Zamora, Castile-Leon
To see an award-winning fiesta, Zamora is the place to go. It’s the oldest celebration of its kind in Spain, and the processions are dark, moody, and sombre.
Candles and incense are replaced with medieval fire torches, and male choirs are used instead of marching bands. To get a real taste of traditional Spain, or to feel like you’ve stepped back in time, you really should spend a day of Easter Week here.
What types of food are available to try during Semana Santa?
No celebration is ever complete without indulging in some truly special foods and drinks. Rather than binging on chocolate eggs and sweets, the Spanish prefer puddings and pastries.
It’s always worth asking the locals to point out their favourite Easter Week bakeries because you may have the once-a-year chance to try things most Brits miss out on.
It’s highly recommended to try torrijas, slices of bread dipped in egg, then soaked in wine or milk, before being fried and sweetened with sugar or cinnamon.
Another delectable treat are the pestinos, honey-glazed pastries that have been fried.
A lot of sherry is drunk at this time of year in Spain, particularly in the South, and if you can, the Manzanilla is well worth a glass. It’s a variety of fino sherry that takes its name from its notes of delicate chamomile tea.
Hopefully this post has inspired you to go out and discover more of your new home’s local heritage and culture, if not for this year, certainly for the next.
If you managed to capture some photos or video footage of your local Semana Santa celebrations, and you fancy sharing them with other expats, please post them to our Facebook page, or pop them in an email to us, and we’ll show them off so that others can enjoy them as much as you did.
If you’re a Brit who has been mulling over whether a move to Spain really is for you, hopefully this glimpse into Spanish tradition has persuaded you that the relocation is well worth it.
Remember, it’s not just Semana Santa that Spain is famous for, there’s a whole other variety of festivals to see, including The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, or La Tomatina, The Tomato Throwing Festival, in Bunol, Valencia.
So what are you waiting for? Don’t miss out on another, unique and amazingly vibrant Spanish fiesta, book your removals from the UK to Spain with us, now!
Photo Credit: Nazarenos – Carlos
If you’ve enjoyed this article, you may enjoy Moving to Spain … an Expat Guide, Essential Tips for moving to Spain with your Children, Gardening in Spain for Expats – What you need to know or Moving to Spain … Regions guide for expats.