Semana Santa


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!


TMI… Shaking my head… It’s just TMI…


I don’t exactly think of myself as a prude. But as I toured in Spain I was just shocked at the clothing, or lack thereof. Maybe I just haven’t traveled in the heat of the summer in a country that doesn’t have a major religious dress code. Granted, I was in Istanbul in March. In India it was hot, but the women wore beautiful saris and kurtas. I now own several kurtas and kurtis. They’re all cotton tops that have a variety of lengths that one wears with leggings, salwars or churidars. In other words, you wear some kind of a pant with them. I swear I saw someone wearing one as a dress in Barcelona! The thing about a kurta is that its got slits on the sides that go up far enough so you can reach into pockets. So wearing a kurta as a dress, really isn’t the intended style choice.

It’s hot. I get it. But do I really need to know all of the details of your undergarments? I grew up in a time where you didn’t show your bra straps. Now, of course, it’s a fashion statement. Plus, that requires prior planning about said undergarments. Both my sister and I agreed that it would require just too much work/effort to coordinate undergarments with whatever ensemble we chose to wear for the day. This “style” was not limited to just the young and tiny. We saw this over and over with women of all ages and sizes. A common theme was a near shear top with some kind of frilly bra. Whenever I see those tops I think to myself, “I have to buy 2 garments instead of one.” I’d need a camisole or something for underneath. No such thought process in Spain. As for what nationality the scantily clad women were, I don’t know. They didn’t seem like they were American. They tended to speak in a non-English language.

The reason why we were paying attention to attire is that in many sites, there is a dress code. When you visit churches, you are expected to dress respectfully. On the La Sagrada Familia website, it specifically says, no shorts. Well, when we scoped it out the night before, we saw lots of people with shorts. My friend, Margaret, had been there before and we sent her a quick email asking if it would be ok to wear shorts if we saw lots of other tourists wearing them. She jokingly replied that we should be ok as long as our butt cheeks weren’t hanging out.

We were fine with our attire the next day. But fast forward to the following day. We went to Montserrat. Montserrat is a Benedictine Monastery. Yes, a MONASTERY. We were taking photos of the beautiful scenery and ran across this…

Dress Code?

No way! We’re at a monastery! People are there to touch the orb of the Black Virgin. My sister and I just laughed and laughed. After the butt cheeks warning from Margaret I just had to take a photo and immediately send it to her. Eek!

I don’t know… I guess I’m just modest and I’m a total rule-follower. So if the suggested dress is pants, covered shoulders, etc. I’m going to do it. You’ll never catch me with my butt cheeks hanging out. Mine don’t look quite that good… But still… I think there is a certain amount of respect for the culture of the place that one is visiting that is needed. I have traveled enough to realize that it is better to fit in with the place than force my own culture on them. I know it’s hot. But there are other ways to deal with it than being darn near naked!