Sometimes we forget Spain has a strong Catholic background and ignore the fact that Easter means much more than a Spring break with some days off and exams almost over. Semana Santa celebrates the week when, according to the Bible, Jesus arrived to Jerusalem, was judged and crucified and afterwards resurrected.
These dates always change according to the lunar calendar: Easter Sunday must always be the one after the first full moon of spring. The rest of the calendar is set after this, including not only the actual days of the “Holy Week” but also other festivities such as Carnival and Ash Wednesday (forty days before it) or Pentecost, seven weeks after Easter.
The most typical celebration is "procesiones", very usual in the south of Spain: these are religious and military parades with thrones representing scenes from the Passion. There is music and “capirotes” - the uniform with a pointed hat. “Holy Week” in Málaga, Granada and Sevilla are considered festivals of International Touristic Interest, but, what if you cannot make it to Andalusia?
Let us tell you more about the Catalan traditional ways of celebrating these days of delightful rest:
Diumenge de rams (March 25th):
Palm Sunday represents the actual entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem, and in our current times this is celebrated by taking palms to the parish on Sunday and blessing them in order to protect family’s homes and lands. You’ll find a Palm Fair in Rambla Catalunya (between Aragó and Diputació) and in Sagrada Familia until the eve of Palm Sunday.
Many villages take advantage of the celebration to choose the best actors in town and make a live representation of “The passion of Christ”. “La Passió” at Esparreguera and Olesa de Montserrat are the most popular ones in Catalunya, and have been played every year for decades, with over 300 people on stage. Both plays will be running until May 1st.
La Mona (April 2nd):
We won’t deny it - the best thing about Catalan Easter is “La Mona”. Many kids from Catholic backgrounds have godparents, who take care of them and help them through life. Nevertheless, the most important responsibility is to get their grandchildren on Easter Monday the tastiest “Easter Egg”, which is usually made of chocolate. This only takes place in Catalunya, so be ready to find “Monas” in every kind of shape and flavour all around the bakeries in town.
But who doesn’t love food in any kind of festivity? Easter pleasures consist on “buñuelos de pascua”, some little round pieces of flour, butter and egg, or "torrijas", very typical in the North and Madrid. These consist on a dish made of bread soaked in eggs and milk, later fried and flavoured with some cinnamon.
All in all, every family in Spain has its own traditional way to celebrate Semana Santa. Even if in Catalonia it’s not a rooted festivity as in other regions in the rest of the country, we’re convinced you will find a way to take part in our Easter traditions, by either buying and eating a delicious Mona or attending a religious parade. Make the most of your Semana Santa in Barcelona!
ESN Barcelona UPF team
Photo 1: Procesión in Andalucía (via La Vanguardia)
Photo 2: Cofradía in Sevilla (via Tripking)
Photo 3: Diumenge de Rams (via Nació Digital)
Photo 4: La Passió d'Esparreguera (via Atrapalo)
Photo 5: La Mona (via miplaneta)
Photo 6: Buñuelos de Pascua (via photographerofdreams)
Photo 7: Torrijas (via elperiodicomediterraneo)