Semana Santa in Spain

When I received the e-mail that my student visa was ready for pick up I knew the following 9 months in Spain would be life changing. One of the events that I was looking forward to was Semana Santa, also known as Holy Week.Semana Santa occurs during the last week of lent or the last week before Easter. During this week some of the most important holidays of the Catholic religion occur such as  Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.All of these holidays pay tribute to the last living days of the Lord. Two very important days being his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter.This week was especially important to me because my parents were visiting from California. I grabbed the Semana Santa calendar in advance to ensure that my parents would being able to participate in a few of the most important processions. Semana Santa in Spain is like no other. The processions that the cities throughout Spain put on are absolutely marvelous. They are rich in history and tradition and vary in music and mannerisms depending on the region and city.Being that I live in Castilla y Leon the mood is a somber one as opposed to Andalusias more emotional and dramatic performance during the week. One thing that cities have in common throughout the country is the wearing of the nazarenos and penitential robes. The capriotes, cone shaped hoods, are used to hide the identity of those participating in the processions. These robes date back to medieval origins. Quick sidenote, since I´m American these cloaks made my parents and I uncomfortable for many reasons but we put aside our “American eyes” and tried to view the procession for the religious homage that it is.The people or brotherhoods participating in the processions usually carry wooden crosses, candles, and some even walk barefoot through the cold wintery streets. It´s a form of penance that the most devoted of people commit to. The first procession that we watched was on Holy Thursday, this honors the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples. In Burgos, the city I live in, the people call it Procesion del Encuentro. Let me tell you, it was so emotional, it even had me in tears. It took place in front of the cathedral at nine at night. It was a cold winter night but thankfully the sky was clear and the full moon was shining bright. Encuentro in english means encounter or finding. One brotherhood held a large statue of Jesus carrying a large cross at one end of the cathedral and another held Nuestra Senora de los Dolores on the other. Over a span of thirty minutes Jesus Christ and Nuestra Senora met halfway in front of the cathedral and people couldn´t help but cry. I forgot to mention that during this whole procession a marching band played solemn tunes throughout the night and only added to the somber mood in the air. The encounter represented the love Mary has for her son and acceptance  that “tomorrow” her son will be crucified in front of a crowd, her last goodbye. The following day my parents and I gathered in front of the cathedral before noon to catch the Good Friday procession. Once again the streets were filled with people and a marching band kicked off the procession with somber tunes. At noon exactly a brotherhood in nazarenos walked out of the cathedral with a life sized figure of Jesus tied to a cross.Once they passed we followed them to the other side of the cathedral where they then proceeded to reenact the crucifixtion.A number of different colored nazareno brotherhoods gathered in front of the cathedral doors. Till this day I’m not sure what the different colors represent so you will have to research that on your own.The figure of Jesus was eventually nailed to the cross and the crowd was in utter silence. It was a pretty intense scene.I heard from fellow Burgalés residents that down south people actually crucify the person acting as Jesus. I can’t imagine how emotional that must be for everyone participating.I was glad that my family didn’t have to travel far to watch the processions. The cathedral is a three minute walk from my apartment and the city has just as much history and tradition during Semana Santa as any other city in Spain.In the future I will make my way to Seville to particpate in Semana Santa but for now, experiencing it with my family was all that I could ask for. Thank you parents for making Semana Santa special.

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