Easter in a different way.
How to spend Easter? In the Polish traditional way, sitting at the table with your family? Or maybe it is worth going to a place where Easter is celebrated in a different way? Where no one has ever heard about blessing food, where Monday is a normal working day, and where the Holy Week is celebrated differently than in Poland.
Spain and sunny Andalusia is such a place! In Seville and other cities of the region, such as Malaga, Granada and Cordoba, in the entire week before Easter five to seven processions are held each day! In Seville, in the period from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, more than 70 processions march through the city! The shortest one is organized by the Brotherhood of Santa Marta and it lasts only 4 hours. The longest one, under the leadership of the Brotherhood of Macarena or Triana, last as long as 13 hours.
The organization of the procession is not the responsibility of a church or parish, but of the Cofradia Brotherhood, which is a secular association. The tradition of those meetings is derived from the Middle Ages. Today's brotherhoods are simply associations that used to gather craftsmen and students.Contrary to appearances, Semana Santa is more a manifestation of the Andalusian identity than a Catholic religious event. It is a beautiful and unique combination of the sacred and the profane.
Seville in this period does not work and does not fall asleep – the inhabitants are on the streets day and night, especially during Madrugada – magical time from Holy Thursday to Holy Saturday. The imagination of the participants is fired by hooded members of brotherhoods, the so-called Nazarenos or Penitentes, beautiful sculptures of Madonna and Christ carried on wooden platforms placed directly on the shoulders of the strong brothers bearers (costaleros), the smell of incense, flowers decorating the platform and dripping wax. Scenes as if taken straight from medieval Paschal mysteries.
The rippling crowd fills the narrow streets, where during breaks everyone will be happy to eat Andalusian "little something", namely tapas, and raise a toast with wine in honour of their Madonna or brotherhood. Additionally, to sweeten the hardships of the procession, you can eat specially made sweets such as torrija, huesos de santo or pasteles de gloria, or nazarenos shaped lollipops sold on every corner. There are also a few tapas bars decorated in the Semana Santa style, such as the famous La Fresquita and several other facilities, where you can order a drink called Sangre del Cristo, i.e. the Blood of Christ.
In addition to the smell of incense, wax, flowers, wine and tapas, the time of Easter processions is also associated with music: Easter marches and las saetas, meaning a spontaneous and highly emotional religious song including many flamenco elements in the canto jondo style. Of course, like everything in Andalusia, Las Saetas means eclecticism, because the roots of the music date back to the sixteenth century and derive from the religious songs of Sephardic Jews. Currently it is performed during the processions, usually from the height of the balcony, by a singer dressed in black, often with a guitar accompaniment. Semana Santa is also a vanity fair - the latest fashion alternates with traditional elements such as black mantilla mounted on a comb in the hair of women on Holy Thursday. None of the residents will show up on the streets wearing flip-flops, shorts or t-shirts.
After the entire week of marches, on the Resurrection Sunday, at eight o'clock in the morning, which is very early considering the Andalusian standards, only one procession is held. It is less popular than the other ones. It is a procession in which, apart from Christ Triumphant, the only Madonna that is not sorrowful and crying, but smiling beautifully, is carried. It is poetically called Virgen de la Aurora, Luz de la Vida. Our Lady Dawn, Aurora - the Light of our lives!
What does Seville live and breathe on Easter Sunday? Above all, everyone sleeps off the procession week and... gets excited with Cinco por la tarde, that is the first corrida in the summer season.
Easter Week 2019 from 13 to 21 April.
Spring Andalusian fiesta
Semana Santa is the beginning of the spring celebration in Andalusia. About two weeks after Easter, fiestas are held, which in Seville are known as Feria de Abril, and in Jerez de la Frontiera – Feria de los caballos. Feria in Spanish means a market, so the week of celebration has its origins in the tradition of spring horse fairs.
The holiday spirit is already felt on Easter Monday (it is a normal working day); in the shops, instead of Easter processions, you can hear joyful sevillanas. On the stands with accessories, you can find colourful mantones, i.e. silk, embroidered scarves, traje flamenco –flounced dresses, big round earrings, artificial flowers and hair combs. In other words, everything that a woman may need to "dress up" for the feria time.
Feria begins with Alumbrado - evening official turning on the lights on the gate to the place where the Recinto Ferial fiesta is held in the Los Remedios district in Seville. The whole quarter looks like a campsite, because along the fifteen streets over 1000 casetas are situated – tents belonging to associations, companies, friends and families. You can enter them only on the basis of an individual invitation. There are also several public tents with chairs, tables and bars available to everyone. An additional attraction for children is the amusement park with carousels and cotton candy. Feria ends in the weekend with a great fireworks show, which usually is attended by visitors and tourists.
The best recipe for a successful, spring fiesta? A polka-dot flamenco dress with numerous flounces and scarves with tassels! Also flowers in the hair and a large number of combs in vivid colours will come useful. What is necessary is the company of a handsome Andalusian man wearing a hat and sitting on a horse, and a glass of wine fortified with jerez or rebujito (a drink based on white, fortified manzanilla wine, lemon sparkling drink and ice).
Try some tapas, dance sevillanas, get a ride in a flowered cart and if you are a corrida fan, watch the bullfight at 5 p.m. Celebrate another week!
Andalusians are the most hedonistic population in the world, for whom the most important is aproverchar la vida, i.e. enjoying the pleasures of life. Viva la Fiesta!
In 2019, feria in Seville (Los Remedios district) falls between 4 and 11 May, and in Jerez de la Frontiera (Gonzalez de Hontoria park) between 11 and 19 May.
For more inspiration for great travels, visit Azul Holiday – specialists in wonderful holidays, Hala Koszyki, Level -1.
About the author:
Dorota Skowrońska - psychologist by education; she professionally deals with human resources management; after hours, by avocation, she is a photographer and admirer of the Spanish lifestyle.
Photo by Dorota Skowrońska