I was living under the impression that everyone knew about Semana Santa in Spain. This incorrect impression was drawn from the fact that every single Spanish class I’ve had at GCC has talked about Semana Santa. We learned every expression you could think of, all the names of the days & events, as well as random Easter vocabulary.
So here’s a quick brief on what Semana Santa is, and then my wonderful experience with Easter today.
The short version: Semana Santa = Holy Week. This would start on Domingo de los Ramos (Palm Sunday) and then end on La Pascua (Easter). In Andalucía, Sevilla is the #1 largest Semana Santa celebration. Málaga is #2.
In Spain, Semana Santa is traditions and scents of their celebrations. They watch their giant floats covered in gold or silver of a crazy embellished Virgin Mary or a Jesus Christ, and clap as they pass by. I’m absolutely not bashing Catholocism in any way with this post – I have some very good friends that are strong Catholics. My problem with Semana Santa is how little evidence of faith there is. Everyone in Spain is “Catholic” but it’s a pseudo-catholocism. So when Semana Santa comes around, the old women are crying “oh Dios!” and waving their handkerchiefs at the processions. Everyone under the age of 70 brings their kids to the processions as if it was a parade. They watch, eat cotton candy, and maybe if they’re feeling like it.. they’ll go to mass on Easter.
I was frustrated with Semana Santa because it’s supposedly one of the biggest, most famous and important celebrations in the world… yet it’s mainly a business.
Everyday they have long, long, long processions of “pasos” of two things: giant wooden/plaster sculptures called “tronos” of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. In front of the floats walk these people:
They are “penitents”. They are usually members of religious fraternities in a certain region that take care of their trono. Fun Fact: Antonio Banderas is part of one of them and walks every year in one of the Málaga processions. I didn’t know when or where to find him, so unfortunately I never met Antonio. :( Also, the hoods signify mourning of the death Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with the KKK – in fact, I’m under the impression that the KKK stole the costume idea from Semana Santa. These pasos are SO heavy, that it takes like 100 men to carry them. The men that carry the pasos PAY to do so – and a looot of money. It’s a huge honor, and the pain they endure symbolizes Christ’s suffering on the cross.
It takes hours, and hours for one procession to pass through the city center – and it’s not THAT large of an area. They literally take a few steps and then take a few more backwards. Or pause every five minutes. It’s so incredibly slow. And the whole time they have bands from local schools playing the iconic “Semana Santa” music – and it’s the same general tune for all week.
Here’s how I experienced Easter.
After being disappointed and a little bit jaded by the celebration of Semana Santa here, I was dying to go to my church, Renacer, on Sunday. I absolutely couldn’t wait.
I didn’t know that I was going to miss hearing the gospel message so much in Spain. And it’s not that it’s not being preached. It’s that it’s in Spanish, and I haven’t understood it for the past two months. I miss being at Covenant and hearing the message of forgiveness & grace every week. And I know that being abroad and not having it has made me appreciate it more – because even when I got lazy and didn’t listen carefully… it was always there.
Today, I am convinced that God gave me a language breakthrough, because I understood almost everything the Pastor said. I clearly heard his message of forgiveness & grace, and the unfathomable gift of God’s love in Christ’s death on the cross. I was so overwhelmed with happiness & thankfulness at being able to not just understand his words – but take them to heart & apply them to my life! Not only did I receive that blessing, but the songs that were chosen for worship were songs I knew in English – so I didn’t have to concentrate on learning the song, but I could concentrate on what the words meant. And we ended the service with communion, which in itself is always a blessing.
I spent the afternoon at the beach doing nothing & ended the day climbing to the top of El Gibralfaro to watch the sunset. Isn’t the sky beautiful? I feel so much stronger in my faith with this beauty than I do seeing the processions.