Holy week in Andalusia, Spain is a big deal. I just witnessed it over Spring Break. It’s an incredible experience. Every night there are processions through the streets of Nazarenos with usually two pasos. There are marching bands, one before Jesus and one after the Virgin Mary. And these processions last for hours and bring tourists and Spanairds alike to the region.
If you recall, I was in Spain this past summer with my sister. Normally I wouldn’t go back to the same country so soon, but since our Spring break fell over Holy Week, it was an opportunity too good to pass up. I traveled with my friend, Margaret, this time. Margaret is Catholic, and knows a lot about the various saints and practices of the faith. Since I’m Lutheran, this was quite helpful. Margaret is also quite the foodie, so I’ll credit her with my new-found love of salmorejo too.
We spent 3 nights in Granada, 1 in Cordoba and 4 in Seville. We enjoyed beautiful Spring weather and walked nearly 150,000 steps during our journey. That’s 61.35 miles, for those of you who would like a more familiar measurement.
What is unique about Semana Santa in Andalusia are the nightly processions. Imagine your entire congregation, parading through the streets to the main Cathedral and back. Members participate in wearing costumes of Nazaranos, penitents, and could also be in a marching band. There are 30 – 50 strong, burly men that are carrying each paso that weighs up to two tons. They work in 20 minute shifts and carry the paso about a block at a time in between rests. Young children participate and hand out candies throughout the route. They also hand out pictures of Jesus or Mary from their pasos.
The “costumes” of the Nazarenos have been around longer than the US has existed. But a group from the US has used a similar costume for some very undesirable reasons. So as an American, it takes a little getting used to the sight. But once you understand the ideas behind the costume, it’s not bothersome. The costume is to keep the penitent anonymous, and they are reflecting on the walk that Jesus made before he was crucified.
We were in Seville for the climax of the week – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Seville is Semana Santa on steroids compared to Granada and Cordoba. We didn’t have to worry about cars until Sunday afternoon because all of the streets had been blocked off the rest of the time.
The Andalusia region of Spain is a lovely place to visit. Semana Santa is a very special time to be there. I’m curious about what it would be like during a “normal” time of the year. But I truly enjoyed the Semana Santa experience. If you have the opportunity to try it out during that time, I highly recommend it!