Semana Santa is observed annually in Spain during the week immediately before Easter and this year it takes place from March 24 to 31. Also known as Holy Week, Semana Santa is observed by Catholics to commemorate the Passion of Jesus Christ, his suffering, and death on the cross. Throughout the week, religious brotherhoods and fraternities carry out penance processions through the streets of almost every Spanish city and town. These activities attract visitors from outside Spain and are often advertised in hand guides and international fairs.
History of Semana Santa Spain
Semana Santa commemorates the Passion of Christ, that is, the suffering of Jesus before his crucifixion. The term ‘passion’ derives from the Latin verb ‘patior’ or ‘passus sum,’ meaning to ‘endure,’ ‘suffer,’ or ‘bear.’ In Catholic tradition, this often refers to specific events from the Christian Bible, such as the ‘Triumphant Entry’ of Jesus into Jerusalem. He rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey, and as he did, the people greeted him as the Jewish Messiah, the ‘Son of David.’
When he arrived, he went into the Jerusalem temple and expelled the money changers who were doing business there. Later, Jesus and his disciples shared a meal known as the ‘Last Supper,’ from where Judas Iscariot left to betray Jesus to the religious leaders of Israel. Another important event was Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he prayed until his sweat became like drops of blood. Immediately after this, he was arrested and put on trial, then unjustly declared guilty. Jesus was subsequently crucified, but after three days, he rose again.
Religious brotherhoods and fraternities hold penance processions through the streets of Spain during Holy Week. The participants or brothers typically use conical hooded penitent gowns to conceal their faces. They wear shackles on their feet and carry wooden crosses or candles. The ‘pasos,’ which floats with sculptures that depict scenes from the Passion of Christ or the Sorrows of the Virgin Mary, are another fascinating aspect of the processions. Typically, marching bands, or ‘marchas procesionales’ in Spanish, accompany the floats. Holy Week in Spain is more than just a religious celebration; it also draws visitors from worldwide who come to see the processions. Typically, the processions are advertised at significant international fairs, hand guides, and on T.V.
Semana Santa Spain timeline
During the Reconquista, Christian kingdoms expel Muslim Moors from the Iberian Peninsula.
The Spanish Inquisition is established to combat heresy in Spain.
After returning from the Holy Land, the Marques de Tarifa establishes the ‘Via Crucis,’ Stations of the Cross, in Spain.
Catholicism becomes the official state religion of Spain with the signing of the Concordat of 1851.
Semana Santa Spain FAQs
What is Easter called in Spain?
Easter is called ‘Pascua’ in Spain.
What foods are eaten during Semana Santa?
Popular meals eaten during Semana Santa include Torrijas, Potaje de Vigilia, Roscos Fritos, Sopa de Ajo, and Mona de Pascua.
What other countries celebrate Semana Santa?
Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Bolivia, Guatemala, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, and others.
Semana Santa Spain Activities
Learn from Christ’s life
There are many lessons to learn from the life of the humble Christ. Take a moment to read one of the Gospels and discover what unconditional love means.
Watch a parade
Whether or not you’re in Spain, you can take advantage of online platforms to stream one of the parades. Get a feel of the processions and see why it’s such a huge attraction.
While Christ was on earth, he exemplified true and abiding love. This Holy Week, commit to showing love in action, speech, and thought.
5 Amazing Facts About Spain
Spain borders Africa
Out of all the European countries, Spain is the only one that shares a border with an African country, which happens to be Morocco.
It’s home to the second most-spoken language
With over 500 million speakers, Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the world.
Spain practices a constitutional monarchy
Although Spain is a democratic country, it also has a monarch — the current one being King Felipe VI.
Other languages are spoken
Languages other than Spanish spoken in Spain include Celtic, Basque, Occitan, and Catalan.
Spain was once a Muslim country
Between 711 A.D. and 1492, Al-Andalus, as Spain was previously called, was under the control of Islamic Moors from North Africa.
Why We Love Semana Santa Spain
Christ paid the ultimate price
Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice for sins, offering his life and blood. He consented to the worst kind of beating, spitting, and killing, to demonstrate selfless love to everyone who accepts him as Lord.
Christ touched many lives
While on earth, Jesus left footprints in the lives of all who met him. He lifted the oppressed, healed the sick, and raised the dead. Till today, his impact on the world has not diminished.
Christ’s followers heal the world
Jesus set an example for his followers, teaching them to love enemies and do good to all. This peaceful lifestyle can be seen perpetuated by Christ’s followers in our world today, centuries after his ascension to heaven.
Semana Santa Spain dates