Saturday, 25 April 2015

"Why are these people wearing strange pointy hats?" - Semana Santa in Granada


How's everybody doing? Today I thought I'd tell you a bit about an amazing Spanish tradition that occurs each year at Easter.
I remember last year, when I saw all of this for the first time, thinking "how on earth have I never heard about this before?!", because it's such a big deal in Spain.

When someone says "Easter", what do you think of?
The first things that come to mind for me are chocolate, easter egg hunts, laziness, more chocolate... And I'm sure a lot of you are the same.

The Spanish, on the other hand, kick it up a few notches with a week known as "Semana Santa" ("Holy Week") - bursting with tradition, worship & all-night celebrations.


Throughout the week, processions take place where a religious brotherhood marches through the streets for usually around five hours, sometimes even longer.


They carry large floats known as pasos, which depict different scenes - be it Jesus on the cross, a mourning Virgin Mary or a variety of other religious stories. They are impeccably decorated with flowers, candles and other bits & pieces. These pasos weigh between 2,000 to 5,000 kilograms and are carried by a group of men called costaleros.

As they go by, members of the public reach out to touch the paso (followed by them crossing themselves), as a sign of respect.


Costaleros train all year round to prepare for the exhausting task of carrying these floats on their shoulders/necks. As they are completely hidden underneath the paso (minus their shuffling feet that you can sometimes spot if you're sneaky), there is a person on the outside who guides them by voice.

Understandably, they need breaks. To make this possible, the pasos have wooden legs that it can be rested on to give the costaleros a bit of a rest.
When they are ready to take the weight back on their shoulders, the crowd goes silent and there are a few tense moments as the guide knocks on the front, letting the men know everything's in place and they're ready to go. Then, as the paso is lifted up and begins to move again, the crowd erupts in cheers and claps & the band begins to play once more - it's very epic.


Around the pasos are people called nazarenos, who look a bit like they've taken fashion tips from the KKK. They wear long robes with pointy hoods covering their faces and heads - very creepy but intriguing nonetheless.
Each brotherhood has it's own colours and details that make the costumes unique to their church. They typically carry a long candle (which children enjoy collecting wax from), a cross, a pole or a lantern.


Another group of people walking in the processions are women known as mantillas who follow the pasos. They are dressed in a long black dress (as a sign of respect), with a beautifully detailed black lace veil.


Finally, there is a band that plays to accompany the entire shebang.
Personally, I think it's the music that makes the processions truly magical and breath-taking. It just adds this epic element which draws you in and makes you unable to look away.
(Not sure why I didn't take any photos of the musicians - sorry!)


The processions start and end in their own churches. Some church doors are too low for the pasos to enter, so the costaleros have to get down on their knees and crawl into the church.


With around 50kg each on their backs.

Just let that sink in... Pretty intense stuff!


So it came to Wednesday night and off we went! Carlos, Yasmina, Katie & I made our way into the city centre (along with the rest of Granada), to meet with some more of their friends and watch a procession or two.


The pasos are covered in hundreds of candles, but as I'm sure you can imagine, these go out frequently. (Thanks for that wind.)
While the costaleros are taking their well deserved break, a person comes along with a long stick to re-light all those that have blown out and all is well again...
Until the next stop in 100 metres!


After watching the processions in Plaza Nueva for a while, we collectively decided it was time for a few rounds of drinks & tapas...


... and then jumped straight back into some more procession watching!


This procession's paso was really quite spectacular.


Shining gold & detailed like you wouldn't believe.



Semana Santa is a truly unique and incredible tradition that is well worth taking time to see if you are ever in or near Spain around Easter (even if you aren't religious!).
The processions are so captivating and show how extraordinarily committed these people are to their beliefs.

If you fancy checking out more of my photos from the processions and the rest of my holiday, you can see the full album here. You can also see my previous two posts about my holiday in Granada here & here!

If you've made it all the way to the end, I applaud you. Thanks so much as always for reading,

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