Anyone who has visited Spain at this time of year will know that here, Easter is a BIG deal. Semana Santa (or Holy Week) sees thousands taking to the streets to watch as young men known as costaleros carry an elaborate float with figures of Christ or Mary in solemn parades. It is most popular in the southern region of Andalusia, where it is not uncommon to see grown men weeping fervently with emotion in the crowds as they see the figure of the Virgin pass by. If it rains hard (which it often does) expect yet more tears but this time from the costaleros who have been practising carrying floats of up to 5 tonnes in weight all year and are now prevented by the weather from the real thing….
I remember my first experience of Semana Santa was when I lived in Granada. I had already heard a lot about Easter there and knew that I was in one of the best places to see the processions. When Holy Week came around, I dutifully took my place in the crowd like a good tourist to see what all the fuss was about. It was at night, with candles and lots of incense giving the whole procession an ethereal feel. Although the figures must have weighed tonnes, it didn’t show on the faces of the costaleros and I was surprised at the number of children who took part and how perfectly behaved they were.
Another thing I must stress is that you do not have to be at all religious to admire this time of year. Love it or hate it, the atmosphere is truly something to behold: the crowds, the candles, the heady smell of incense in the air, the effort and dedication that goes in to those perfectly executed processions. Every year is impressive, in an intimidating, mysterious sort of way. It makes our Easter Bunny and Cadbury’s eggs seem somewhat pathetic in comparison. Much as I like chocolate.