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Spanish Easter

7 Fascinating Facts about the Spanish Easter

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Spanish Easter, or “Semana Santa”, as natives call it, is a vibrant celebration rich in tradition and culture. At this point of the year Spain comes alive with unique customs and rituals. Let’s discover 5 intriguing facts that encompass the essence of Spanish Easter!

Easter is a joyous and significant holiday in the Christian calendar, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, as narrated in the New Testament.

#1. Why do we celebrate Easter on a different date each year?

Perhaps you’ve asked yourself this question.

The reason Easter changes dates every year is because it is linked to a Jewish celebration called Passover (the Hebrew name for Easter). The latter is isually celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, which begins with the first full moon of spring. Easter always falls between 22nd March and 25th April, within a 35-day period. This connection with Passover, which follows the lunar calendar, makes Easter move around each year.

#2. No meat during Lent and Good Friday

There is a tradition of not eating meat during Lent. To put it simply, there are two main reasons why people avoid eating meat during the Spanish Easter.

First, meat (especially red meat) is seen as a symbol of Jesus Christ’s crucified body. Therefore, as a sign of respect, the Church advises against eating meat.

Secondy, meat was historically considered as a luxury item connected with celebrations and feasts. Because this contradicts the spirit of austerity and purification that Easter represents, many Christian people opt to prepare food recipes with other ingredients, such as fish, seafood or vegetables.

#3. Spain releases a prisoner

For Christians, Easter also represents forgiveness. As narrated in the Bible, Pontius Pilate had the custom of releasing one condemned prisoner during Passover. Following this tradition, the Spanish government grants pardon to several prisoners who are about to complete their sentence. It does so under the auspices of the ‘Law of June 18, 1870, establishing rules for the exercise of the grace of pardon’, last amended in 2015.

#4. Spanish “Nazarenos”, commonly mistaken with something else

But first, what is a “nazareno”?

The word “Nazarenos” refers to participants in religious processions, particularly during Holy Week (Semana Santa) in Spain. They typically wear distinctive robes and hoods, often in colors associated with their specific religious brotherhood or organisation.

The attire of Nazarenos dates back to the Spanish Inquisition. Those punished for religious reasons had to wear a garment covering their chest and back, along with a cone on their head as penance. The “capirote”, the pointed cone worn during Spanish Easter, has led to some confussion in other countries, with people mistaking them for Ku Klux Klan members.

#5. Promises and penances

During the Spanish Easter it is very common to see nazarenos and costaleros walking barefoot. The reason, is religious: promises. Believers often ask for “favors” from God or Virgin Mary and, in return, they promise to perform various types of penances, such as accompanying the Holy Week procession barefoot. This requires a great effort since a procession usually lasts between three to five hours.

#6. The sweet part of Easter

The practice of consuming sweets during this time may be related to the celebration of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, where sweets symbolise the sweetness of renewed life. Additionally, in some cultures, sweets may have been a form of indulgence before Lent, when Christians are fasting and avoiding excess.

During this time of the year, it is very typical to eat torrijas, a traditional dessert made from slices of bread soaked in milk or wine, coated in egg, fried, and typically flavored with cinnamon and sugar. Others prefer buñuelos (a traditional fried dough pastry) or the famous Mona de Pascua, a traditional cake from Eastern Spain that is often decorated with a hard-boiled egg.

#7. The magic of “saetas”

In Spanish Easter celebrations, music is like the heartbeat of the festivities, adding an extra layer of emotion to the whole experience. Imagine standing in the streets, surrounded by the sound of “saetas.” These are intense, improvised songs sung with raw passion during the processions. Picture it: someone belting out heartfelt lyrics from a balcony or church doorway, accompanied by simple percussion. They’re powerful expressions of faith and a feeling that can give you goosebumps. They’re a big part of what makes Spanish Easter so unforgettable for anyone lucky enough to experience it!

The well-known singer Diana Navarro sings a “saeta” in Málaga

That’s all, amigos! I hope you liked to learn more about the Spanish Easter! If you happen to be in Spain this time of the year, try to enjoy these unique traditions.

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