For the catholic Spanish and Latin Americans, Pascua (Easter) and the Holy Week before hand is the second biggest festival of the year. They celebrate the days leading up to the death and rebirth of Christ with processions, however most of the week is one of mourning as they remember the suffering of Christ. Only Easter Sunday is a true day of joy and celebration. This article looks closely at how each day is celebrated, as well as the food eaten and the processions!
El Domingo de Ramos is celebrated exactly one week before Easter Sunday, and is the celebration of the day Jesus came to Jerusalem on a donkey. Ramos means branches in Spanish, and in Spain the children carry palm branches to church to be blessed by the priest. Boys would take plain branches, and girls would take ones decorated with sweets and ribbons. After they had been blessed, there would be a parade with the children bearing the branches.
Although in Spain over Easter week they celebrate everyday with parades, the next really special day is el Jueves Santo, Maundy Thursday. Maundy Thursday is the day of The Last Supper, and in Murcia a float is prepared with real food to represent it. On Easter Sunday, the men that had to carry the float sit down at it and eat the meal! In another part of Spain, Verges, a spectacularly creepy “Dance of the Dead” is performed at night, by adults and children dressed as skeletons. This spectacle was once common all over Europe and originated in the 14th century. During these times, the constant threat of death made people desperately crave amusement in any form, and death was often portrayed as amusing or welcoming as a comfort.
The next celebrated day is el Viernes Santo, Good Friday. Well, I say celebrated, it is really a day of mourning for the Spanish Catholics. Different Catholic groups call Brotherhoods star in the long and winding processions. The processions supposed to symbolize Jesus's walk to Golgotha with the cross and to reflect this the members of the Brotherhood wear dark clothes and veils to show their grief. In Valencia The Procession of the Holy Burial takes place. This macabre procession resembles a huge funeral march, with all 28 of the Brotherhoods joining in. It is a sombre occasion, with mournful music, no smiles , slow steps and faces covered. Those leading the procession Carry torches And some people will walk barefoot. Catholics are not allowed to eat meat on Good Friday, instead they have fish and vegetables. Common dishes in Spain for Good Friday include garlic soup and a soup made of cod, chickpeas and spinach.
Penultimately, we have Easter Sunday, a day of celebration and rejoicing as the Catholics in Spain celebrated the rebirth of Christ. Easter Sunday in Spain is celebrated by the giving of gifts, much like Christmas. There is a special type of cake given called una mona which is traditionally given to children by their God parents. Many cake shops compete to see who can display the most impressive mona in a shop window. The cake's are covered in a range of decorations, and are so impressive they are even talked about on the news. Lamb is a traditional dish for Spanish Easter Sunday, as is paella.
Finally, we have Easter Monday, a day to spend time with family. Most families got out to the countryside or the park to enjoy a picnic. They take left over Easter food and a cake. This is a day where people relax after the suffering of the week before, So it is an extraordinarily cheerful day! Technicality, as it is not part of the holy week, I should not have included it, but I figured it was part of the Easter celebrations anyway!
Traditional Easter food in Spain changes within each region, but there are a few dishes that are favoured almost everywhere. One of these dishes is called a hornazo, which is a pie filled with eggs, pork and ham. It can also be filled with almonds, aniseed and egg to make a sweet alternative. Another is a sweet dish known as torrijas, which is basically bread soaked in egg, sugar and milk before being fried in olive oil. It is often dipped in wine, cinnamon, syrup or honey to provide a simply stunning and very rich treat. Chocolate treats used to be very rare in Spain, but recently have become more and more popular. Whilst they used to only be available in specialist shops, they are now available in chain stores such as SuperSol.
During Holy Week the Spanish honour and mourn Jesus Christ with a series of processions. The processions are made up of floats called pasos. They are carried by people known as costaleros. These people train for months to get the speed and rhythm just right. The areas that bear the most of the weight of the float is protected by a cushioned headscarf called un costal. The costaleros practise out in the open, however when it is time for the actual procession, they are hidden underneath the floats by the richly decorated cloths. All the floats would've been beautifully decorated with gold and silver ornaments, fancy cloths and scented candles, and the parades would occur everyday in practically every Spanish town. I am told that Seville's processions are especially fantastic, and definitely worth seeing, if you can put up with the crowds of thousands of people who had the same idea!
Easter in Spain is beautiful, I different, and I would wholeheartedly recommend spending a weeks there on holiday just to experience it! With the food and processions,as well as the deep religious meaning, its almost magical, and I can imagine the Dance of the Dead being something you wouldn't forget! I hope you enjoyed this article, and found it as enlightening as I found the research I had to do! Thanks for reading!