With Easter around the corner, we believe that it is important that you know what the holiday means for the people of Spain. Make sure that you make the most out of your holy week during your language exchange as it leads up to one of the most popular holidays in Spain.
Traditional Easter Processions
Semana Santa is one of the largest celebrations in Spain each year, with extravagant processions happening in major cities throughout the country in honor of the historically religious holiday that has had strong roots in the historically Roman Catholic country. Some of the holiday’s traditional celebrations have even existed for nearly 800 years! All festivities throughout Semana Santa lead up to one of the most valued holidays in Spain, Easter Sunday.
Dramatic processions are a staple in celebrating the festivities of Semana Santa, which can be identified on the street by a person with a large cross in the front leading the parade of humble locals and visitors alike.
These processions are similar to parades, with a collection of floats and large crowds walking around the community often in a solemn, but sometimes in a festive manner. This event occurs several times throughout holy week leading up to Easter.
Attending one of these events during your language exchange will surely allow you a unique opportunity into Spanish culture and some unforgettable experiences. Some would participate in remembrance of the religious figures that are associated with Easter, while others would take advantage of the event to pay penance for their sins.
Popular City Celebrations
Several major cities in Spain have elaborate parades to carry out the festivities throughout holy week. Exorbitant processions full of religious displays depicting biblical scenes are a key factor to this week of celebration, among other activities. Malaga and Seville are staple names, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year for their notorious celebrations.
Anyone can participate in these processions, since there is no exclusivity to attending this public parade of the religion. Seville holds some the largest holy week processions, with events like La Madruga, which are processions held at night and parades featuring floats called pasos, which are large wooden statues that can weigh over 1000kg and are typically carried by 40-50 men. In Malaga, intricate thrones, or tronos, are carried throughout the city as a part of their procession.
Depending on how you may want to spend your holy week, different towns have different and distinguished reputations, such as the more festive approach to the holiday Malaga has, compared to other more somber city celebrations found in cities like Castile and León. Choosing the right town or towns to celebrate your Easter will allow you to make the most out of your language exchange with the exploration of diverse cultures within Spain itself.
Traditional Easter Cuisine
While fasting is a crucial part of the 40 days of lent leading up to Easter, once lent has been completed, unique and delicious Easter dishes are made from scratch that are sure to fill up those that vowed to participate in the fasting.
Traditional dishes are typically made of vegetables and fish. This is intentionally to avoid the consumption of meat during this holiday, which is not allowed. As a result, cuisine for the holiday includes sopa de ajo, or garlic soup, a stew consisting of cod, chick peas, and spinach called potaje de vigilia, and torrijas, which is bread soaked in milk and egg and fried in olive oil, served with sugar or honey.
Try practicing some of your Spanish by ordering some of these dishes during your language exchange at a local restaurant, which will allow you to try some of Spain’s unique cuisine. Because of this restriction on meat for the holiday, feasts would not occur as often or comparatively large as large as other holidays, like Christmas or United States’ Thanksgiving.
Extravagant Easter Clothing
Traditional costumes worn during the processions include capirotes, which is an ensemble of a very tall cone hats that cover the face paired along with belted robes that are worn by people doing penance during holy week. While these outfits are very unique and outlandish, women often dress in a more conservative approach, often wearing a mantilla, or a black lace veil worn on the back of the head, with a modest black dress.
It has also recently become a rule to not wear red lipstick or a short skirt, citing that it was a disrespectful act against the holiday and what it is meant to be celebrated for. Men that are not participating in the procession for penance would often wear the best suit that they own as a sign of respect and humility for the holiday. For the more festive events or processions, the code is always to dress to impress.
How Other Countries celebrate Easter
When you look at how other countries celebrate Easter, such as the United States, we can realize how easy it is to recognize the differences of how Easter and Holy Week is treated as a completely different kind of holiday, often with less obvious religious themes than what you would find here in Spain. We encourage you to take advantage of your language exchange to notice some differences in how your culture is used to celebrating the holiday as well.
Some common traditions you would find in the United States is the Easter egg decorating, egg hunts, and Sunday mass.
People would also associate the holiday with the Easter bunny more often than the religious figure it is actually based on. In fact, there is often only one or two processions throughout holy week in a given town, depending on how popular Catholicism is in the local community. One of the most popularized sweets to eat during this holiday are Peeps, which are very sugary marshmallows artificially colored to look like baby chicks or bunnies.
There really is no reason to wait any longer. Plan out your trip and determine which places in Spain will you spend your Easter in – to enjoy the unique and special holiday for locals and visitors alike.