5 Facts about Semana Santa: Holy Week in Spain

Semana Santa is an old catholic tradition in Spain, which many still celebrate to this day. All the way back in the spring of 2011, I went on school exchange to Benavente, Spain. It was Easter while we were visiting and my guest family took me to see one of the processions in town. This procession was definitely different from the ones I had experienced in the Netherlands. I was very intrigued at the time, and decided to find out more. I did my research, and here are 5 interesting facts about Semana Santa.

5 Interesting Facts about Semana Santa

Semana Santa Procession in Benavente

1. Semana Santa is the Spanish Holy Week

Semana Santa, which translates into “Holy Week”, is the Spanish Catholic tradition of commemorating the Passion of Christ, taking place the week directly before Easter. The Passion of Christ tells the story of Jesus’ final period in life.

2. Pasos: 1000 kg Procession Floats

During Holy Week processions, like the one shown in the photos above, an eleborate float (Paso) will be carried along. The paso usually features statues of Jesus,Virgin Mary, or other important Catholic saints. These pasos are still physically carried and some can weigh over a 1000 kilograms!

Semana Santa Procession in Spain (Benavente)

3. Semana Santa in Central and South America?

Now, you might be wondering: is Semana Santa only a thing in Spain? Not quite. Central and South American countries also celebrate similar forms of Semana Santa. This including Mexico, Guatemala and Peru, where they also have varying traditional processions.

4. Eating the Torrija Traditional Dessert

Torrija is a type of dessert, traditionally enjoyed during Semana Santa. The Torrija’s main ingredient is a slice of bread. To complete the recipe, you dip the bread in an egg and fry it in a pan. Afterwards, the bread is soaked in milk or wine with honey and spices. Some say it’s pretty similar to French toast, which makes me want to try it even more.

5. Singing the Saeta during Holy Week

In some southern Spanish communities, participants will sing the saeta during Holy Week processions, a very emotional type of religious song that (during Easter) usually mourns the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. The genre has its origins in flamenco folklore. Here’s an example from Granada’s Holy Week in 2009:

Those facts were short but sweet, I like to think. Hopefully you feel a bit better informed! Did you already know about Semana Santa? Do you perhaps even join the celebrations yourself? Do let me know in the comment section below, I’m very curious to hear about your stories.


8 thoughts on “5 Facts about Semana Santa: Holy Week in Spain

  1. Very right and true everything! And I wasn’t expecting to read Granada (my hometown) in here! 🙂

  2. On an island called Flores in my country, there’s also a tradition called Semana Santa. Seems that the tradition in Flores similar to the one you described. Perhaps I’ll post about Semana Santa in the island some times later.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Roselinde. It’s very pertinent with Easter only a few days away now. The pictures are wonderful too I like to hear about the traditions of other countries.

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