What to Expect During Spain’s Semana Santa (Holy Week)


Holy Week in Spain, or Semana Santa, is a fascinating experience for tourists and residents alike. A generally Catholic event, this complete week of celebrations– some light and some mournful– draw in both the curious observer and the devout individual.

You’ll discover everything in Semana Santa: remembrance, repentance, event, sadness, creative expression, and a respect for custom. From vibrant processions to ornately woven palms, it is among the most wholehearted and captivating events worldwide.

Below, we’ll have a look at what you can anticipate throughout the week of celebrations. If you’re honoring the celebrations from home, we’ve even snuck in a list of standard deals with that can assist you take part on the event.

Whether you’re interested in discovering more about the cofradías (brotherhoods) that bring this custom on their shoulders or crazy about commemorating with torrijas (french toast), mastering Spanish can assist you get back at more out of your experiences abroad and in your home. Rosetta Stone can assist you prepare with our immersive, bite-sized lessons that mirror natural knowing methods and real-life discussions. Plus, TruAccent offers you instant feedback on your pronunciation in every lesson, so you’ll constantly sound fantastic!

What is Semana Santa?

Holy Week is among the most essential vacations in Spain and worldwide, and every day is connected to occasions that took place at the end of Jesus’ death, according to scriptural accounts. The 3 most noteworthy days of event are:

  • Domingo de Ramos ( Palm Sunday): On this day, palmas (palm leaves) are woven into elaborate shapes. Individuals utilize them to embellish streetwide processions, and the palms are then blessed by clergy members. In the accompanying bible story, this custom is influenced by the palm branches individuals waved when Jesus went into the city of Jerusalem.
  • Viernes Santo ( Holy Friday): Silent, mournful processions– total with sophisticated drifts and matching clothes– happen throughout the day to honor Jesus’ death and crucifixion.
  • La Pascua ( Easter Sunday): Christians worldwide commemorate La Pascua (Easter Sunday) as the day of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and accomplishment over sin and suffering. In the bible, this was the day that Jesus’ burial place was discovered empty.

The routines we see today in Spain came from the 1500s. They are a mix of lots of existing practices either formed or affected by the Roman Empire, pagan groups, brotherhoods of penitents, crusaders, and even military groups. The Catholic Church had a hard time to manage a few of the practices, sometimes attempting and accrediting particular brotherhoods to prohibit other groups. Still, Holy Week in Spain works as an extraordinary window into the past and represents centuries of history and custom.


When is Semana Santa?

Palm Sunday marks the very first day of Holy Week in Spain, along with the recently of La Cuaresma (Lent). One week later on, Easter Sunday marks both the conclusion of Holy Week and the most essential occasion in the Christian faith.

The dates of Holy Week are not repaired! Rather, they follow the Catholic liturgical calendar. Easter Sunday is a portable banquet day, carefully connected with the date of the Jewish banquet of Passover. It is generally commemorated on the very first Sunday after the Paschal moon, or the moon that arrive at or simply after the spring equinox.

Consequently, Easter Sunday can fall anywhere in between March 22 to April 25. Catholic and Protestant Churches have actually traditionally followed the Gregorian calendar, hence the date of Easter varies from the Eastern Orthodox Churches which observe the Julian calendar.

This can be complicated, however there is excellent news if you’re preparing a journey to commemorate Easter in Spain– the dates are set well beforehand!basic Spanish words and phrases>> > > Gain self-confidence with this guide to

before your journey! How is Semana Santa commemorated in Spain?

We’ve referenced the bible a lot of times throughout this post, however it’s worth repeating that you do not require to be Catholic to value Holy Week events! Considerate visitors of all faiths and strolls of life are welcome to take part in the celebrations, and lots of discover the processions, both mournful and happy, to be deeply moving. Semana Santa

is as much a spiritual practice as it is an event of cultural identity and neighborhood. Which event will you participate in? Well, that part depends on you. While some resemblances stay in between areas and cities, you’ll observe that each church and matching cofradía

( brotherhood) has their own centuries-old customs. No 2 events are alike! Listed below, we'll concentrate on the standard essentials.


Processions of Semana Santa The most extensively understood Semana Santa customs are the processions. Those acquainted with the event will indicate pasos ( drifts) as the most renowned sign of Semana Santa, however cofradías (brotherhoods), costaleros (porters), and nazarenos

( Nazarenes) hold similarly essential functions. Each church in the city homes pasos, big elaborate display screens, which are continued foot throughout the processions. (The English word “float” does not appear to properly equate, as there are no wheels included. Some have 2 pasos, one portraying Jesus in a particular scene of the occasions of Holy Week, and one portraying his mom Mary and an element of her sorrow and sadness. These are performed the streets by costaleros ( porters), and accompanied by nazarenos


( Nazarenes) in bathrobes and hoods.

Pasos (statues) Pasos

are big sophisticated display screens continued foot throughout each procession. They are masterpieces in every sense of the word: ornately sculpted, meticulously painted, and elaborately embroidered or lined with silver and gold. Frequently, they bring candle lights and fresh flowers. Some even consist of antiques that go back over 500 years! To guarantee information are protected and brought back, pasos are looked after year-round by a cofradía (brotherhood) and housed in regional churches. Some churches have 2 pasos— one portraying Jesus in a particular scene, and one portraying his mom Mary and an element of her sorrow and sadness. Initially, the pasos

served to inform a public that could not check out the Bible on their own by portraying the significant occasions and stories of Holy Week. If you have your sights set on seeing a particular paso, understand that some are too fragile to be brought outdoors in the rain. Cofradías

organize an unique schedule for their procession which is released and shown regional towns beforehand.

Cofradías (brotherhoods) Cofradías (brotherhoods) stand out spiritual associations of non-clergy members. That implies members do not require to be ordained to sign up with one! Their main function is neighborhood, and a close second is getting ready for and leading the processions of Semana Santa

Each brotherhood is identified by their commitment to a spiritual figure, frequently Jesus, Mary, or among the lots of Catholic saints. It’s not unusual to discover generations of relative in a cofradía, which contributes to the custom and tradition of each group. In Semana Santa events, cofradía


members can be recognized by the color of their bathrobes.

The actions of a Semana Santa procession Each procession ends and starts in a church. The preliminary salida ( exit) from the church holds unique significance; it is the only time the paso

leaves its home all year. To get ready for the procession, the costaleros (porters) collect into position, using bathrobes and in some cases hoods to camouflage their faces. Some pasos weigh over 2 lots, and together the costaleros

share this weight, standing in a grid development to take on the wood assistances over their neck and upper back. The discomfort and problem is thought about an honor, representing their sharing in the suffering of Christ and repentance for misdeed.

A guide leads the procession through the doors and into the streets. It is essential that the group action together and keep up, developing a swaying impact as the leader calls out their actions. They leave the church and start an intense journey, the longest of which lasts approximately 14 hours. The costaleros

require to be gotten ready for a physically taxing day, which is why they prepare and practice in the weeks leading up to this occasion by bring wood grids weighed down with cinder block. Some take shifts in order to consume and consume water to restore their strength and endure the journey in the heat of the day. The processions likewise consist of the nazarenos (Nazarenes). Depending upon the area, it might consist of marching bands and flamenco vocalists. Viewers collect to enjoy along the path as the paso

sways gradually through the streets. Ticketed seats with an excellent view can cost numerous euros, or you can get up individual and close with others in the crowd. Anticipate the streets to be loaded! Children in the crowd watch in wonder, in some cases with hands held out to get sweet from the death nazarenos, and grandparents and moms and dads seize the day to inform their kids about the occasions portrayed in the paso

The nature of each paso differs. In Bilbao, the very first procession of the week illustrates Jesus getting in Jerusalem riding the borriquito

(little donkey). Others are set up every day, showing the enthusiasm, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The matching drifts of Mary each illustrate an element of her sorrow as she views her child’s abuse and execution.

At numerous times throughout the procession, the state of mind of the crowd may be joyful and celebratory, whereas at other times the crowd might fall quiet out of regard. As a visitor, it would be a good idea to follow the examples of the residents, as the specifics might not recognize and can differ considerably. Once the journey is total, the entrada (entry) takes the paso


back into the church or chapel where it is shown and brought back throughout the remainder of the year by the matching brotherhood.

Clothing of Semana Santa Other than the pasos , the most renowned part of Semana Santa is the clothes. The brotherhoods each have their own customs that determine the color, bathrobe, belt, hood or rope, and insignia. A few of these return centuries, and frequently the clothes can be given from generation to generation. The ropes and belts are still made in some locations by hand on spinning wheels, and are a valued piece of quality art work on display screen. In Sevilla, accompanying the drifts are solemn females using standard mantillas

, black lace face veils and black gowns. Surrounding the costaleros (porters), extra hooded figures, using greatly pointed cones on their heads and seeing just through holes in the material, accompany the pasos These nazarenos (Nazarenes) represent penitentes

( penitents), those experiencing sadness and penalty for their misdeed. Their identities are camouflaged from the time they leave their homes, alone, till they return. They can likewise get care from liked ones along the method (water being vital for survival), it would not be thought about proper to get rid of the hood throughout the procession.

The facial coverings and hand-stitched cones serve to camouflage the penitents, the privacy revealing that all are similarly guilty of misdeed, and the pointed cones direct that penance up towards the paradises. Kids might likewise wear cones or the colors and insignia of the brotherhood as viewers. These coned hats, likewise called capirote, are most disconcerting to visitors– there’s no rejecting their similarity to the white hoods and cones used by the Ku Klux Klan. The customs of Semana Santa bear no ties to dislike groups, and Spain continues to be extremely inviting of all visitors. The capirote


has actually been used by Catholics for centuries and has actually long been a sign of repentance, affected by the Spanish Inquisition.

Traditional foods of Semana Santa Though the costaleros and nazarenos

  • might stay away till their work is done, no celebration is total without the food. The occasions take location throughout the Lenten season of self-denial, Holy Week in Spain is no frustration when it comes to the cooking experience. Torrija:
  • A Spanish-style French toast, sweet and made with milk and eggs like a bread pudding. There are lots of possible tastes, and it is a needs to throughout this season. Pestiños
  • : Deep-fried sugary foods made with flour, honey, aniseed, and cinnamon. Garbanzos con espinacas
  • : This meal of chickpeas with spinach is a mouthwatering meatless choice for those who are staying away throughout Lent. Mona de Pascua
  • : Known as Easter cake and embellished with entire eggs, this dessert is generally consumed on Easter Sunday or Monday. Croquetas de bacalao: Fish croquettes
  • are popular cod fritters worked as tapas or a snack. Sopa de ajo
  • : This garlic soup is an easy meal that can be served with poached egg. Rosquillas or Buñuelos
  • : These tasty and sweet donuts are a welcome reward on Easter in Spain, however you’ll likewise discover them served at Christmas in lots of Latin American nations! Flores fritas:
  • Known as “fried flowers,” these sweet fritters are seasoned with aniseed and orange and are best with a hot drink. Potaje de Vigilia: This stew made with garbanzos, cod, spinach, and garlic, is popular on Viernes Santo
  • (Good Friday). Sancocho Canaria
  • : This fish stew was made well-known in the Canary Islands and is carefully connected with lots of meals served in the Caribbean. Patatas Viudas
  • : A Lenten adjustment of a potato meal which does not consist of meat, however is seasoned with aromatics, bell pepper, and Spanish paprika. Tapas: In basic, these “little plates” are a not-to-be-missed experience throughout Semana Santa

and year-round. Make the most of Spain's wealth of seafood-based bites, or other little shareable meals made with simply-prepared veggies, olives, cheeses, and other toppers for bites of bread.


How does Semana Santa vary in between areas of Spain?

While the events throughout Spain appear to combine residents with cultural identity and custom, each area has distinctives that set it apart. The practices of the processions, drifts, brotherhoods, and penitent bathrobes belong to the custom in the majority of cities, however the most attractive events are seen in Andalusia, while those in Castile and León are more major and solemn.

  • Some fascinating points of local distinction consist of: Jerez de la Frontera: Experience the saeta
  • , a standard design of local tune carried out on verandas and identified by strong feelings. Málaga: Witness a multitude of joyful bands, and the highest tronos (thrones continued the pasos
  • ). The tone of processions in Málaga is likewise significantly less mournful than that of processions somewhere else. Seville: Marvel at the antiquity of the pasos that appear to drift through the streets alone. This optical impression is an easy one! The costaleros
  • are merely well concealed under the structure of the float. León
  • : In one procession, 2 of the drifts bring and satisfy out an integrated motion where they appear to dance with one another. Salamanca
  • : Witness among the earliest events in Spain, going back to 1240. Valladoid: Horses aren’t widespread in the majority of Semana Santa
  • events, however you will discover them included here as members of the Valladoid brotherhood pronounce the “Sermon of the Seven Words” on horseback. Zamora
  • : Brotherhoods and sisterhoods alike commemorate in more of a middle ages design with bathrobes generally used by monks and choirs rather of bands. Nighttime processions are kept in silence. Toledo
  • : Visitors might get the possibility to peek inside the city’s abbeys and convents in what is usually the only chance of the year as they are normally near to the general public. Cartagena

: The events follow a more stringent order and are more sequential in regards to occasions.

Build much deeper connections with Spanish culture and beyond Semana Santa

is a window into Spain’s larger culture. Catholicism is, obviously, a centerpiece of Spanish culture, however event, neighborhood, and passing custom down through the generations are fantastic narrative ties that all can value. Somehow, we’ve actually just scratched the surface area in breathing life into Semana Santa

For the complete experience, we suggest inspecting it out on your own! The routines and customs of Spain’s Holy Week are really distinctive. Plus, with a lot of components special to each city event, there’s sufficient to see for several years to come. immersive, bite-sized lessons The richness of world cultures can leave us curious, pleased, intrigued, and relocated to a level that exceeds the borders of language. Construct much deeper connections to the cultures that motivate you. Rosetta Stone provides several entry points into an unknown culture, with TruAccent that assist you find out language and broaden your cultural understanding. You’ll even have the chance to improve your pronunciation in every lesson with


Written by Jamie Edwards

Jamie is a student and instructor of French and spanish. When she’s not discovering brand-new words, you’ll discover her on the soccer sidelines, ski slopes, and track and field bleachers delighting in the 4 seasons of Western New York.(*)


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