This week many places around the world will mark the Catholic feast of Holy Week to celebrate Easter. In Spain, predominantly a Catholic country, the stunning spectacle of Semana Santa is participated in, or witnessed by huge numbers. Over a million line the streets in Seville to see the most respected brotherhoods or fraternities. Decorative floats with religious statues and iconography are carried through the streets of towns and cities throughout Semana Santa. The floats are considered precious masterpieces and the processions are steeped in ancient traditions.
Hooded penitent figures from different brotherhoods lead the elaborate processions and carry the the enormous and incredibly heavy floats on their shoulders. The floats gently sway in a ghostly fashion, an incredible emotional and solemn effort of camaraderie to support floats, which often weigh several tonnes. We were shown a float being prepared in Jerez which weighed one tonne and would be carried on the shoulders of forty people. There are exsisting floats weighing more than five tonnes and are carried by two hundred and fifty people. So important is Semana Santa in Spain we have heard bands practising, and seen balconies, streets, churches and floats being carefully prepared for weeks in advance.
Previously we attended the Velez –Malaga Semana Santa, an amazing spectacle, in which you can line the streets and be a part of the procession rather than being a member of a huge crowd as in Seville and other cities. We were handed sugared almonds and watched the local children making balls of wax from the wax candle drippings in the street. This year we saw the palm Sunday procession in the fantastic coastal town of Mijas and the Maundy Thursday evening procession in Loja, both places in which you can imerse yourself, follow the band and stand beside the floats and witness the pain on the faces of those carrying their enormous burdens.
The atmosphere in Loja was electric, the cafés along the procession route were buzzing; as always an event in Spain is a family event, with so many families and friends of all ages socialising long into the night. We followed the processions route into the old incense filled narrow streets of Loja to see streets of elegant ladies dressed all in black each holding a candle each to form a passage way full of light and throw flower petals for the procession to walk through whilst the following band of drums, trumpets, horns and flutes played on mournfully.
Semana Santa, an unforgettable experience.