Spring is making itself felt all over Spain as the people celebrate the annual event of Semana Santa or Holy Week. It’s not just Easter, it is a full week of paying tribute to the Passion of Jesus Christ. The religious Catholic brotherhoods in virtually every village or city in Spain perform what are known as penance processions in the last week of Lent, which is one week before Easter actually happens.

These celebrations date back to the Middle Ages, although some brotherhoods were created during what is known as the Baroque Period in the 20th-21st centuries.

The celebrations continue into Semana Santa or Holy Week.

Holy Week is Spain's version of Easter

While the holiday is celebrated all over Spain, according to All Spain Accommodation's blog, some of the most spectacular celebrations are seen in Andalucia, in the south of Spain. These are especially those held in Málaga. Sevilla and Granada.

Anyone seeing the celebrations for the first time might be shocked by the penitential robe or “Nazareno” as it is called in Spanish. The penitent wears a tunic and a hood bearing a “capirote” or conical tip, which conceals the wearer’s face.

The colors of the costumes vary, depending on which procession is on at the time.

These garments are the same as those used in the middle ages to demonstrate penance, while the wearer hides their own identity. The penitents also carry wooden crosses and processional candles are they walk solemnly through the streets of the towns and cities.

Hollywood actor, Antonio Banderas is almost always involved in Málaga's celebrations, as it is his hometown.

Beautiful floats in the Semana Santa processions

Other processions include the often magnificent floats or “Pasos,” bearing sculptures relating to various gospel scenes relating to the Passion of Christ and also the Sorrows of Virgin Mary.

Many of these floats have a long history and were designed by famous Spanish artists of the past and carefully preserved over the years.

Marching bands are always seen in the processions with drums and trumpets, playing the “Marchas procesionales” which vary depending on the fraternity and location within Spain.

Family time during Semana Santa

Besides the religious and solemn side of Semana Santa, the holiday week often coincides with the start of spring.

Many take the whole week off in Spain to relax and enjoy the company of their families, or head to the warm beaches in the south, which are suddenly coming alive after winter and the dreaded Storm Emma, with its rough waves, howling cold winds and endless rain.

Where I live in La Cala de Mijas, a small, typically Spanish beach town on the Costa del Sol, the town has suddenly come alive. During winter the “chiringuitos” or beach restaurants are shuttered and closed. Many other restaurants close for the winter months to refurbish. Souvenir stores and ice cream outlets shut their doors.

Winter here is quiet, and we who live here do appreciate that, but somehow, seeing the beaches and streets come alive again is exhilarating.

Several of us rolled our eyes and smiled in the supermarket today at a foreigner wearing a clownish hat with a tiny umbrella to protect against what to us is just a gentle and welcome warm sunshine.

No ‘Easter Monday’ for Spaniards

Semana Santa runs from Sunday, March 25 and finishes on Sunday, April 1, meaning no Easter Monday break for us. However, both Thursday and Good Friday are annual holidays here and many stores and supermarkets are closed on those days. Read more about the individual Semana Santa events in the article by Spain.info linked below and enjoy your Easter weekend, wherever you are.