Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter in Spain

Well, it has been an interesting week in Spain. Easter here is very different. They don’t celebrate with rabbits and chocolate, if you can imagine; no painted eggs, no baskets of jelly beans, no children hunting through the grass looking for colourful surprises. However, the week was not without drama and excitement.

In Spain, they celebrate Holy Week. It is ten days long, beginning on the Friday before Good Friday and finishing on Easter Sunday. There is no Easter Monday but then most people have had the prior ten days off. All week long, the brotherhoods of the parish churches gather together to parade Holy relics through the streets. The grand finale is Good Friday when every town acknowledges the crucifixion of Christ by walking through the streets together.

All week it has been raining. I read that most of the brotherhoods will cancel carrying the huge icons through the streets if it rains because the relics are very old and precious. We had plans to go to several different events but decided not to when we saw the rain. Most places are about a half hour drive and the roads are what you might call “challenging”. We don’t really have roads like this in Canada so it is hard to explain though if you have been keeping up with the blog, you’ll understand. A friend of Julia’s told us that many tourists arrive here looking very white and needing to hang on to something for a while after they get out of their cars. One does get used to it but no sense pushing our luck.

On Good Friday, we went to Velez-Malaga, a town about the size of Langley. The rain seemed to be holding off and we didn’t want to miss out on ALL the fun. When we arrived, we had to park on the outskirts of town and walk back in. Even though there were thousands of vehicles everywhere, there were very few people. It was odd because you couldn’t really even hear people yet you knew they had to be somewhere. We didn’t have far to go before we found them all.

It was a festive atmosphere on the inner streets of the city, with kiosks selling plastic junk and greasy food, people milling everywhere and huge processions of people in tall pointy hats and long gowns. We stopped to watch several people dressed in tall red pointy hats and white gowns holding large silver candlesticks walk by. A band played and about fifty men stood shoulder to shoulder carrying a huge Jesus on a Cross display. A row of children dressed in Church robes and walking in front swung incense about them, creating a hazy sweet smell. The procession moved slowly. Periodically, a bell would ring; the men carrying Christ would stop moving, the bell would ring again and they would set down the ornate float. The band would stop playing and everyone would rest for a bit.

During these interludes, little children with balls of wax would come up to the penitents (hooded ones) and ask if they could have some of the candle wax. The penitent would tilt the candle and drip their wax onto the ball. It seemed like the older the child, the larger the ball of wax so maybe they save the balls from year to year.

We had been told the real event was watching them come in and out of the cathedral so we headed up to the cathedral to wait for the procession to reach there. Surprisingly, we ran into another procession! This one was on another street and the penitents were dressed in different coloured robes. Some had tall pointy hats and some had deflated points. We weren’t sure why the difference. The float was Jesus in a glass coffin this time. It kind of reminded me of Snow White but that is a bit irreverent given the occasion. The men carrying the coffin float wore headdresses that looked a bit like Egyptian pharaoh hats and some were blindfolded.

We decided to head back to Almachar to catch the late show there but on our way we stumbled across more processions. Each one had similarities but the penitents always wore different colours. They often carried huge candles or silver rods. Some carried a cross. One procession had ladies with Spanish mantilla headdresses on. All of them had a group of men, no women, carrying a heavy float. We’ve heard these floats can be up to 1000 kg! I don’t think these ones were that heavy.

We couldn’t have timed our arrival in Almachar better. The procession was just heading from the main square down to the church and we quickly parked the car and hurried around through the other streets to get ahead. It was a small procession by comparison. No one wore robes or hats. About ten men carried a small float of the Virgin Mary. The best part was that the men would stop and a singer would come out to sing the wailing cry of Flamenco for a short time. Everyone would clap and then the procession would continue. The arrived at the church just as the bells chimed midnight. The festivities were just beginning. We’re not sure what else they had lined up, though because we headed off to bed.

1 comments: said...

Very interesting...neat speaking this a.m. The fire truck ride was WONDERFUL for Sophie and her cousin. They even turned on the siren, flashed the lights. The kids had to have their car seats installed and wear head phones! It was a brand new fire truck, 2 weeks old, and the tires were taller than either of the children. Lots of pictures. Love Mom