Throughout most of Spain, Semana Santa (Holy Week) is observed with somber processions of robed and hooded penitents carrying heavy religious statues through the streets. But not all the season’s fiestas are during Holy Week. Easter Sunday itself is observed with the burning of effigies in many places, and Easter Monday is a favorite time for outdoor festivals, many of which involve special foods.
A More Festive Holy Week in Valencia
In Valencia, which in years such as 2018, has barely finished its weeklong blowout festival of Las Fallas, they move directly into their second most important one, Semana Santa. Only here does Holy Week take on a lighter carnival air, with the center of activity is in the lively Cabanyal neighborhood near the port, in the same streets that were filled with Las Fallas fireworks only a short time before.
Unlike other cities where penitents dress the same, in Cabanyal each of the more than 25 brotherhoods has its own colors and some dress in almost military uniforms. Each procession tells part of the story of the Passion of Christ, with the largest and most colorful of them on Thursday and Good Friday, followed by the very moving Processions of Silence Friday night. On Easter Sunday, in the gigantic and colorful Parade of Resurrection all the brotherhoods come together to celebrate.
Masked Horsemen and Drums
Throughout Easter Week in Valladolid masked riders on hooded horses ride through the streets, and in Hellín (in the province of Albacete near Murcia) the Tamborada brings thousands of people of all ages to the streets beating drums. After a warm-up on the previous Friday, the drumming begins in earnest on Wednesday afternoon and evening, and is repeated at intervals until the finale, when from the tiny hours of Easter morning until the middle of the afternoon the air is filled with the sound of drums.
Easter Sunday and Monday
On Easter Sunday in Castile-Leon, Castile-La Mancha, parts of Andalusia, the Basque Country and other places straw effigies of Judas are set on fire, often filled with rockets or fireworks that explode into a continuing pyrotechnic display.
Easter Sunday and Monday is the time for outdoor festivals, often featuring picnics or special cakes. Avilés, in Asturias, holds a Fiesta del Bollu (Cake Festival), when godparents give cakes to children on Easter and on Monday people join for huge public picnics. In Catalonia traditional Easter hymns are sung, and Vejer de la Frontera, near Cadiz, throws off the solemnity of Holy Week on Monday with the Toro Embolao – running of bulls through the streets.
Perhaps the most unusual of all is in Salamanca, where the whole city a heads to the riverbanks on Easter Monday for Lunes de Aguas, a picnic whose origin was to welcome the prostitutes back after Lent, during which they were banished from the city.