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.