The rich cultural traditions of Easter in Spain and our love for torrijas
MADRID, SPAIN – Easter week in Spain--also known as Holy Week--is one of the country's most significant events. Processions take place all over the country bringing tradition, colour and music to the streets. As well as the processions, visitors can enjoy traditional Easter sweets such as torrijas (sliced bread soaked in milk, sugar and egg and then fried in olive oil), Monas de Pascua (Easter chocolates with a surprise inside), Easter doughnuts, leche frita (fried milk and egg dessert), and various pastries.
If you're in Spain for Easter week, here's what to expect in Granada, Valencia, Seville, Murcia, Vallodolid, Malaga, Cartagena and Salamanca.
The monumental settings in which the celebrations take place are what make Easter so special in Granada. Celebrations are held in the Albayzίn quarter, the Alhambra and the Sacromente hills in the shape of religious processions. Huge fires are lit on Holy Wednesday, before the Cristo de Silencio procession takes place on Holy Thursday, followed by another procession on Good Friday. The most impressive of the processions takes place on Easter Sunday, when the streets are a sea of colour with children carrying lanterns.
Valencia celebrates Easter with three rituals: the Blessing of the Palms, the Procession of the Holy Burial, and the Resurrection Parade. Religious floats flood the streets, as well as re-enactments of scenes from the Bible, with people playing music and chiming bells. The highlight is the re-enactment of the Holy Burial, which takes place on Good Friday and is taken very seriously by the locals who watch over in silence. The festive spirit is at an all-time high on Easter Sunday and Monday when families convene at the old river bed to feast on Easter food.
Seville’s celebrations are famous for the statues of the Virgin Mary, in which only the face and hands are revealed while the rest of the figures are swathed in luxurious clothing. The region holds a total of 58 organised processions each year, with a huge 50,000 people taking part, playing music, wearing traditional robes and carrying religious statues from Cathedrals to churches. On the eve of Good Friday, the statues are carried through the streets and the atmosphere is heavy with emotion and passion as spectators look on in respect.
Easter in Murcia centres around people dressed in fine, colourful tunics and a bag around their waist filled with treats to give out to friends and family as they follow the procession through the streets. Other parades that also take place include the Refuge, the Rescue, Health, and the Return, signifying the life of Christ. The most impressive procession is held on Good Friday at dawn, with floats symbolising different chapters of the life of Jesus, including The Supper, The Prayer in the Garden, The Capture and The Fall.
The stars of the processions here are the intricate statues created by well-known Spanish Baroque sculptures. The processions kick off on Good Friday, with riders on horseback making poetic proclamations throughout the city, before the ‘Sermon of the Seven Words’ is spoken in Plaza Mayor . Thousands of people take part in the religious procession through the streets, with the most emotional moment being the return of the Virgen de las Angustias to the church.
There are two main highlights of Easter week in Malaga, one is on Good Friday in the Plaza de Arriola square, when nuns of the La Cruz convent sing to the Brotherhood of Los Dolores de San Juan, and the other is the great processional thrones. Famous for the freeing of a prisoner, this event is the result of a historical protest when Easter week processions were suspended due to an epidemic. Prisoners broke out in order to carry the statue of Jesus through the streets and once the statue had reached the church, the prisoners returned to their cells. Now, a prisoner is released each year to accompany the procession in commemoration.
The religious celebrations that take place in Cartagena are particularly spectacular due to the intricate floral decorations that adorn the religious statues during the processions. Spectators can enjoy the mesmerising colours and scents as they watch the processions that symbolise the story of Christ in chronological order, while members of religious brotherhoods distribute souvenirs and sweets to the gathered crowds.
The Easter week celebrations start on Maundy Thursday in Salamanca with a service at the old university chapel. All of the university professors attend in their academic robes and traditional chocolates and sweets are given out at the end. The historic city centre provides a beautiful setting for the religious processions, the most stunning spots include the Casa de las Conchas, the House of the Shells, and the Arrabal and Clerecia churches.
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