It is that time of year again; blooming flowers, nice weather, and…..Easter. Similar to Christmas, Easter is both a cultural and religious occasion. Some people in the United States celebrate Easter for religious purposes; celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. For others, Easter is a family tradition; families and friends come together and celebrate the traditions of Easter Baskets and bunnies, dyed eggs, and good food.
Before the advent of Christianity, Easter was a festival to celebrate the coming of Spring and the vernal equinox. “Easter” comes from the word “Eastre”, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring. The Easter rabbit is a symbol of fertility, long associated with Spring. And the eggs? They are the giver of life. Additionally, during the Middle Ages, eggs were forbidden to eat during Lent. So people boiled or preserved them, to eat at the end of Lent.
Two years ago, my husband, children, and I went to Spain in March for 2 weeks. Our trip started in Madrid with my Spanish cousins. Then we took a road trip to the South. We spent some time in Granada; it is an incredible city to experience. The mixture of North African and Spanish culture gives the visitor the feeling of having a foot in two different cultures. And the Alhambra….amazing! We also took a day trip to Malaga.
Lucky for us, our trip landed us in southern Spain during “Semana Santa”, or Holy Week. This is the final week of Lent, which starts on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday. Semana Santa is one of the most important religious holidays in Spain, especially in Southern Spain.
Throughout the week, there are large processions of people (pasos), both participating and observing in the procession, in the streets. The processions begin at a church and can last hours, moving their way through the city, and end at the same church. Men (Costaleros) carry large floats, containing huge images (imagenes) of Jesus Christ and/or Mary, and they are followed by people (Penitentes or Nazarenos) dressed in very traditional costumes. For the American visitor, at first glance, these costumes can be quite disturbing, as they look very similar to the costumes worn by the Klu Klux Klan. However, the costumes of these two groups have no connection. The Nazarenos hide their faces because they mourn the pain and suffering of Jesus, ask for forgiveness for their sins and seek to be closer to the heavens, through the cone-shaped hood (capirote). On Easter Sunday, the Nazarenos remove their capirote in happiness for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead..
While in Spain, we were fortunate enough to see the pasos in Malaga, Granada, and Madrid. It was quite an incredible experience.
Today may be a special holiday for you or a nice Sunday afternoon. Whether it is one or both of these, enjoy.
If this post peaks your curiosity, follow this link for more in depth information about Semana Santa celebrations in Spain.