Spain’s Holy Week
Last week was an extremely special week in Spain—Semana Santa, or Holy Week. It is one of the most important holidays in the country, and is a whole week full of Easter celebrations, processions, partying, and more. The week culminates in Easter Sunday services, which coincide with the day of Easter that many Christians celebrate In the United States. Since the days of Spain’s former dictator, Franco, the celebrations and traditions have evolved from solely pertaining to honoring Christ to a tourist extravaganza and having a more secular focus. Although I’ve seen a good bit of Easter candy lining the racks of grocery stores, it doesn’t seem to just be all about the egg hunts, baskets, and bunnies here in Spain. Spain remains a largely Catholic country, so religious celebrations are very central to the week.
According to our program director Jaime, some of the biggest Semana Santa activities happen in the south of Spain. Many people from across the country and world come to the Andalusian region to participate in the Semana Santa festivities. Although I am way up north in the Asturian mountains, this doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of processions and celebrations in Oviedo and surrounding towns during Semana Santa!
During the Monday through Wednesday of the Semana Santa, we were all hard at work finishing up papers and exams, and on Thursday and Friday, the adventures began for the students in our program. Throughout the week, Oviedo held nightly processions throughout the city center and all the way down to the south most neighborhood of Oviedo, el barrio Tenderina, where I live. The processions, though not as big as what I imagined were taking place in Andalusia, consumed the streets. People, young and old, took to the streets to watch the religious parades. The parades featured religious relics, statues of Jesus being carried throughout the streets, and clergyman and women in specific garbs—all smiling, singing and walking in procession.
A few students in the group chose to go south to experience some of the Semana Santa traditions there. So I am told, the celebrations in Andalusia did indeed live up to its expectations. The south of Spain is known to be particularly more conservative and religious, meaning that the celebrations were larger, longer, and much more emotional. Throughout the processions, families cheered, touched the religious relics of Christ and Mary, and cried out in joy and prayer. The celebrations hold much greater religious meaning in the south, so this was an experience of a lifetime for those that went south for break and I am happy to write and share it with you all.
As for me, I chose to escape the rain in Oviedo for the week and explore my own family history in Italy, where my grandfather was born. Here, I experienced the Italian version of the Holy Week and witnessed the home of the Catholic Church.