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Easter 2018 and 2019

Easter is one of the most celebrated religious holidays in the world and marks the resurrection of Jesus after the crucifixion.

YearDateDayHolidayAutonomous Communities
201829 MarThuMaundy ThursdayNational except Catalonia
30 MarFriGood FridayNational
2 AprMonEaster MondayBalearic Islands, Basque
Country, Catalonia, La
Rioja, Navarre &
201918 AprThuMaundy ThursdayNational except Catalonia
19 AprFriGood FridayNational
22 AprMonEaster MondayBalearic Islands, Basque
Country, Catalonia, La
Rioja, Navarre &
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While some countries or families observe the event in a simple, low-key fashion, Spain seems to take a more elaborate approach. There are 16 townships in Spain that recognize the entire Holy Week as an international tourist attraction due to the large amount of travelers drawn to their areas. The 16 townships that host special Easter activities are: Caceres, Cuenca, Crevillente, Granada, Hellin, Leon, Lorca, Malaga, Murcia, Medina del Campo, Medina de Rioseco, Orihuela, Salamanca, Sevilla, Valladolid and Zamora.

Ancient rituals play a large part in shaping Spain’s religious history. Semana Santa (Easter Week) begins with Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) and ends on Lunes de Pascua (Easter Monday). Holy Week also consists of Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Good Friday.

People attend morning mass on Palm Sunday. Children carry palm leaves in hopes of being blessed by their local priest. Many churches organize parades to note the arrival of Christ into Jerusalem. Unlike some protestant churches who fashion small crosses from a palm frond, Spanish congregations carry huge, leafy palms or olive branches.

In Spain, Ash Wednesday is the first day of the penitential season and is marked by a ceremony where ashes are placed on the foreheads of worshippers as a sign of remorse and repentance. The Roman Catholic churches make the ashes from palm branches burned on Palm Sunday. The significance behind the long-held ritual is to symbolize the return of Christ and representing mankind’s return to dust.

There is also Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) which is a public holiday in Spain and falls before Easter Sunday. Also known as Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday and Thursday of Mysteries, the day commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. It is preceded by Ash Wednesday and followed by Good Friday.

During Lent, worshippers are expected to observe the time with fasts on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. When it comes to Holy Week, the rich Spanish culture goes on full display as activities are broadcasted on television, promoted in major international fairs and the press. Each year and with much anticipation, worshippers and tourists look forward to enjoying a charged atmosphere involving religious festivities and joyous celebration. Parades take place every night during Holy Week. Normally, they go on for miles and end well after midnight.

The pasos are magnificent floats used to carry the sculpture and art pieces reflecting the Passion of Christ or the Sorrows of the Virgin Mary. A large number of these pieces were created by Spanish artists such as Mariano Benlliure, Gregorio Fernandez, Juan de Mesa and Martinez Montanes. The pasos are usually accompanied by marching bands performing “Marchas Procesionales.” For centuries, brotherhoods have owned and carefully preserved these pasos.

In the village of Almaden de la Plata, painted dolls made in the likeness of famous people are torn apart with pieces thrown into the air on Easter Sunday. The residents of Castilblanco de los Arroyos does something similar by placing dummies in the street and later set them on fire. These hand-crafted objects are known as “Judas dolls.”

For a more spectacular Easter fiesta, the town of Valladolid may be the place to visit. Local organizers use art and music to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ. There are members of different brotherhoods participating in the procession, dressed in fancy robes and carrying religious statues on pasos to the sound of music and drums. Membership to the brotherhoods or fraternities is open to any practicing Catholic.

Arguably, the town of Seville hosts the most glamorous of all processions for Semana Santa (Holy Week). Their religious pageantry sparks the competitive spirit within organizers of some other towns. Organizing the festivities since the 16th century, Seville has around 50,000 people parading around in traditional robes in its 58 processions. Lifelike wooden sculptures depicting scenes of Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem to his burial, or images of a grieving Virgin Mary during the brutal whipping of her son on the cross are displayed on pasos.

From nightfall up until the early hours of the next morning, the streets are crowded with people, excitement and high emotions. Flamenco songs can be heard while a cappella is recited from the balconies in honor of the statues. For convenience, it is possible to reserve seating by contacting the Consejo Superior de Hermandades y Cofradias (Brotherhoods’ Association). Information is available on their website. All processions leave from their churches, following an established route and return via different route. However, they all must pass the “official section” on Calle Campana Street and pass through the Cathedral. It is at this point, which is deemed the official section, where admirers can view the procession from seats or stands. Viewers should be aware that in order to enjoy these festivities patience is required since the wait to see the statutes tend to be long. A few of the most venerated statutes making their way through the city are: Jesus del Gran Poder, la Macerena, la Esperanza de Triana and elCristo de los Gitanos.

Not all regions of Spain celebrate in such grand fashion. Towns like Leon and Castile prefer to have more sedate and solemn processions. Nevertheless, the processions held in Leon are very popular and well-attended. One of their most solemn moments is when the pasos representing Saint John and La Dolorosa face one another passes by.

One of the oldest celebrations noted is in the village of Salamanca, which dates back to the year 1240. The background provided by this Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

As for holding the oldest celebration in Spain, that honor goes to the town of Zamora. The brotherhoods there wear monk robes instead of the traditional nazareno cone-shaped hat and carry lit torches in lieu of candles. Another difference is the use of male choirs instead of marching bands.

Due to their strict order and uncommon characteristics, the processions in Cartagena differ from the others. Each brotherhood is divided into smaller groups. Following a military-type discipline, they must remain completely still and silent when they stop. The images in the procession are surrounded by a sort of electric candelabra or chandeliers which appear to be upside-down.

Processions in the town of Malaga go on from Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday. Images from the Passion can weigh as much as 5.000 kilos or more and are displayed on floats or thrones. These are carried by more than 250 members of Nuestra Senora de la Esperanza.

In Murcia, real food is set on the table as worshippers and visitors listen to the story of the Last Supper. By Easter Sunday, the twenty-six men who carried the table in the procession are allowed to sit down and eat the food. In southern Spain, the processional music is provided by drums beaten by local boys. In the village of Hellin, it is reported that between eight and ten thousand drums are beaten from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.

As for the flavors of Easter, the torrijas is a popular dish among the Spanish people. It is a wonderful mixture of warm sliced bread soaked in milk, eggs and sugar, which is then fried in olive oil. The dish is usually dipped in wine, honey or syrup with a touch of cinnamon added. Another Spanish tradition in regards to an Easter feast is having a child’s godfather present him or her with a cake known as “La Mona.”

The typical dish for locals living in Castilla and Leon is the “hornazo,” which is a huge pie loaded with eggs, ham and meat. Another alternative is to include almonds. In Madrid, the capital of Spain, one can easily find “huesos de santo” or “bunuelos” – friend pastries with different types of fillings.

Perhaps the second most eye-popping features during any procession are the nazareno or penitential robes worn by the participants. The elaborate tunic comes has an attached hood with conical tip to conceal its wearer’s face. Historically, the robes were used during the medieval period for penitents as they demonstrated their penance.