The Spanish Language Blog

Holy Week in Spain (Semana Santa) is always the week before Easter. Religion in Spain is especially important during this week. The main aspect of Holy Week in Spain is the penitential processions. These penitents wear pointed masks during the processions to keep their anonymity (both men and women). In Spain there are three major cities known for their special Holy Week in Spain, these are Seville, Zamora and Toledo. In 2012, Spanish Holy Week is from Sunday, April 1 to Sunday, April 8.

In Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, grand processions pass through cities depicting the sufferings of Christ and Mary. Almost every procession has a group of statues on a platform (paso) depicting a scene of Christ's suffering or a sorrowing Mary (the Virgen). The Virgen is always wearing a crown and has crystal tears for the sorrow of Christ's death. These images are dressed with embroidered gold costumes and are usually carved from wood. Most processions are held in silence and some fraternities even have a duty of silence. Only women are allowed to participate as penitents; everything else is carried and done by men during Holy Week in Spain.

Holy Week in Seville

The Holy Week of Seville is one of the most famous in Spain and is also celebrated very extensively. The whole country goes out to experience this holy week in Seville. There are more than 60 processions during Holy Week in Seville. Each procession is held by a Catholic brotherhood (Hermandad of Cofradía). The largest fraternity in Seville is the Cofradía of the Virgen de la Esperanza Macarena and has about ten thousand sisters and brothers. Each procession has its own route, but usually runs from a particular parish to Seville's cathedral and back again. Some processions last several hours and the pasos are carried by members of the holy brotherhood, also called costaleros. In front of the pasos go anonymous groups of sisters and brothers as penitents (Nazarenos) who all carry one burning candle. The front Nazarenos carry a large cross called the Cruz de Guia. Holy Week in Seville is marked by the beautiful pasos carried through the narrow streets of the old city, an emotional process for most Spaniards.

Holy week in Zamora

Like holy week in Seville, Zamora residents claim that semana santa in Zamora is the most famous. The first holy week in Zamora was already held in the 13th century and was later named a "festivity of international tourist interest." In Zamora the Gregorian sound is heard which creates an emotional atmosphere during the nightly processions.

Holy week in Toledo

In Castile, Holy Week is also characterized as severe and somber compared to other regions. People take to the streets to witness the Passion of Christ and the suffering of his mother Mary. The statues are sometimes hundreds of years old and are true works of art with their beautiful embroidered clothing on the detailed pasos. In Toledo , a march is held at midnight on Good Friday (Viernes Santo).

Anyone can join a fraternity. Each fraternity is different and also has its own board at different levels. The purpose of Holy Week is the same everywhere, but everywhere it is celebrated slightly differently.

It is well worth attending Holy Week in Spain (Semana Santa) in one of these cities. During this week there is an atmosphere that cannot be described, only felt. The music, the attitude of the spectators and the many emotions will not go unnoticed by anyone.

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