A Quick Look at Spain's Interesting Semana Santa Traditions

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

Living in Las Gabias, only a hop away from the city of Granada I have gotten to see first hand the care and devotion that the Spanish people put into Semana Santa or, Holy Week in English. Each region of Spain has their own customs for celebrating the most important Catholic holiday but nobody does it quite like Andalusia. The Andalusian region is known for their vibrant and colorful celebrations and mourning during Holy Week. I thought for once, I'd lay off the fascinating and often surprising pagan roots that lie in most all (especially Easter) Christian holidays and focus on the beautiful tradition that surrounds them. This Maundy Thursday, I rounded up what I consider to be the most interesting things about celebrating Easter not only in Andalusia but all of Spain!

What is Semana Santa?

Spaniards know how to throw a party and Easter is no exception. It's a celebration and a mourning that is observed throughout Spain and most Latin American countries. This a week-long tribute to Christ beginning on Palm Sunday and leads up to Easter Sunday. The origin of these celebrations date back to around the 16th century when the Catholic church thought it would be a good idea to try and explain the biblical stories surrounding Easter in a way that the common folk could grasp-this meant lots of visuals and glamorous celebration, which the Catholic church is never lacking! Every year, massive processions take place across Spain to commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ.

Fun fact: procession comes from the Latin word "processio" which means marching forward. This is when the "Hermandades" or religious brotherhood march through the streets alongside the costaleros or bearers. The bearers walk through the streets hoisting up enormous pasos (floats pictured above) and misterios (pieces of art)that depict the Virgin Mary, Jesus, The Last Supper and, of course, The Passion. Some are so large they require 50 or more people to bear the weight, which can be as much as a 1,000kg to one ton!