Mar 232011

Semana Santa – Easter in Spain
Easter can be the perfect time to think about a break from the grey skies of northern Europe and to head to the Costa Blanca in Spain for some early, pre-summer sunshine. Days should be warm and sunny and a welcome change from the probably still chilly weather elsewhere. Evenings will still be cooler of course, but nevertheless very much milder than in the UK. As well as the better temperatures, Easter in Spain can give the visitor a feel for a tradition that has been all but lost in most other countries in Europe, and it is marked with a mixture of tradition, music, culture, theatre and, of course, religion.

Semana Santa is the Spanish description for Easter, although this translates literally as ‘Holy Week’. The festivities do in fact last for the entire week leading up to the Easter weekend, with processions through the streets from local churches to the cathedral and back again. Most of the processions tend to take place in the evening, with the most important being on the Thursday, and going through into Good Friday. As far as church services are concerned, Easter Sunday is obviously the most significant.
The Easter processions date back to the 16th century, when the church decided to inform the populace of the story of Christ, and it was thought that the best way to do so would be by means of processions that depicted the fall and resurrection of Jesus. Almost every town in Spain takes the Easter celebrations seriously, and although certain regions and areas do so more extravagantly than others (Seville, for example), anywhere in Spain will provide the visitor with a spectacle very different from anything they could ever see at home. Indeed, the Spanish celebrations will give the visitor a look back in time, as essentially the way Easter is marked has not changed very much over the centuries.

The processions themselves consist of floats and displays, usually very old and valued ones, which are borne by the men of each town’s different areas from the local churches to the main cathedral and then back again. Generally speaking, each community displays two floats – one depicting Jesus Christ, and the other one the Virgin Mary. The floats themselves are often very heavy and cumbersome and cause no small discomfort to those who are carrying them, but this is indeed part of the point of it all, as far as the participants themselves are concerned. Very often, those taking part in the processions will wear long robes with conical hats which conceal the face of the wearer, although this has nothing to do with the Klu Klux Klan in the United States, who took the idea for their costume from the Easter participants at a very much later date.

So if you like the idea of something a little different from at home, with a touch of Costa Blanca weather hopefully thrown in for good measure, have a look at the bargains that may still be available from the budget airlines. Easter could certainly be very different this year!