Semana Santa: Not only in Seville and Málaga

Good Friday procession, Competa, Spain

From today until April 20th, one of the biggest festivals of the year in Spain is upon us - Semana Santa (Holy Week).  

Andalucía is well known for the many huge processions taking place each day (and throughout the night), particularly in the cities of Seville and Málaga.

But in even the smallest of white villages throughout La Axarquía, evidence of devotion and penitence can be seen, as religious effigies are squeezed through the often steep, narrow streets.

The images are very powerful as the life-sized religious figures set onto ornate tronos (floats or thrones) sway in time to the slow thud of the drums marking their beat.

The colourfully-robed, hooded penitents of the various Brotherhoods make their way through the streets accompanied by the solemn wail of the trumpets of the local municipal band.

Semana Santa is a festival to be perceived through all the senses. 

You can almost taste the overpowering aroma of incense and flowers filling the air as the processions pass by.   No matter the time of day or night, villagers will congregate on street corners, steps, or hang over their balconies to see and sometimes applaud or cry out to their favourite tronos, often reaching out to touch the display as it mesmerisingly sways past them.

Make no mistake, you don’t need to be a religious person to be deeply moved or feel the passion of Semana Santa.

After all – THIS IS SPAIN!


EDITED TO ADD:  After I posted the video yesterday of the Semana Santa processions in Malaga, I was reminded by Gilly, Cristina and Gemma‘s comments to tell you about the hoods that are worn (some conical and some not).   It IS important to know the origin.  Thanks ladies :)

A common feature of Semana Santa is the Nazareno or penitential robe for some of the participants in the processions.

This garment consists in a tunic, a hood with conical tip (known as a capirote) used to conceal the face of the wearer, and sometimes a cloak.  The exact colours and forms of these robes depend on the particular procession.

The robes were widely used in medieval times for penitents, who could demonstrate their penance while still masking their identity.

Sadly, even though these robes and hoods have been used for hundreds of years in this way, they were “hi-jacked” by the Klu Klux Klan in the late 1860s – for which they are more “well-known” outside of Spain.  

More’s the pity.


10 Spanish words to help you through Christmas: Las palabras navideñas

Abstract christmas tree in Malaga



1.  Merry Christmas – Feliz Navidad

2.  Christmas Eve – La Nochebuena

3.  Angels – Los ángeles

4.  Christmas wreath – La corona de Navidad

5.  Star – La estrella

6.  The Wise Men – Los Reyes Magos

7.  Gift or present – El regalo

8.  Christmas tree – El árbol de Navidad

9.  Candle – La vela

10. Snow – La nieve


Which Spanish word do you most associate with Christmas?


Image credit: (Flickr cc) Abstract Christmas tree in Málaga Bogdan Migulski


Day of the Dead: Spanish style

Pumpkin by Thomas Backa (Flickr CC)Image credit: Thomas Backa  (Flickr: Creative Commons)

I don’t like Halloween.  Never have.  Never will.

Not for of any particular religious reasons, but simply because it always seemed a pretty pointless exercise to me.

Until I moved to live in Spain.

Although the American-style “ghosts and ghouls” type of Halloween has now started to creep into the Spanish calendar each year, this time of year is celebrated here in a different form, as “El Día de los Muertos” or the “Day of the Dead”.

The festival of Todos los Santos (All Saints´ day) is a national holiday on November 1st each year, when cemeteries are packed with families paying homage to their dead and tending the gravestones of their ancestors by placing fresh flowers and candles.

Tending the graves in Competa cemetery for Todos Los Santos

This is a commemoration for loved ones with nothing ghoulish or scary involved and, thankfully, without commercialism.  

Exactly as it should be.

How do you honour loved ones who have passed away, in your part of the world?


Related articles:

Death in the Afternoon: The Round Cemetery of Sayalonga

The Day of the Dead: A Celebration of Life 

The heart of Cómpeta: El Paseo de las Tradiciones