Indiana University Overseas Study

Semana Santa


I’m lucky enough to get two spring breaks of sorts in Madrid. A short while ago it was Semana Santa here which is Holy Week, the week before Easter. We were off classes for a full week plus the Friday before and Monday after. I took full advantage of the break.

I hopped on a plane with one of my friends for a three-day weekend in Paris. The city is absolutely beautiful and I want to return as soon as I can.

However, this post is about the second half of my trip.

One of the floats being carried

One of the floats being carried

We flew from Paris to Málaga, Spain. We waited in a bus stop for a few hours until our other friend could come down to join us. Then we all caught a train to Mijas. It was a relaxing, beach week. On Thursday, we decided to catch the half hour train into Málaga to watch the processions for Holy Week. Thursday is known to be the day of solemn processions, so we thought we could spend the evening learning more about the Semana Santa Traditions.

We arrived as the processions were starting. There were so many people in the processions and even more watching. There were booths set up with carnival food and there was a lively atmosphere in the crowd, but a definite somber feel to those participating.

The processions are for many an act of penance. The participants not carrying a float wear a nazareno, which is a specific type of robe that usually is accompanied by a capirote, or a pointed hat. The costaleros carrying the floats do not wear the hats. Many of the hooded participants carrying large candles and throughout the processions, young children come and collect the wax to make wax balls.

The top of one of the floats depicting Jesus carrying the cross

The top of one of the floats depicting Jesus carrying the cross

The floats are huge, heavy sculptures showing passages from the Bible and the resurrection of Christ. They are carried by multiple men at once and the groups only walk so far until they have to rest for a minute. We were standing on a side street as a group came by with a float. There were at least fifty men carrying it. The pain and determination on their faces was astounding to see. Their leader would yell, “vamos, arriba!” to help them continue on. To see them working together in their sacrifice made for an intense moment.

At first I was slightly wary of the processions. It was something very different for me, but I’m really glad I went to see it. It was a really cool experience to see this part of the culture in Spain, and what is studying abroad for but to open up and learn about new cultures and traditions?

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