Chaotic trumpets, beating drums, chanting people, and giant statues of the Virgin Mary hanging out underneath my bedroom balcony until the wee hours of morning is to be expected this time of year. It’s kind of Spain’s version of a glorified Easter egg hunt. Except that it lasts a week, runs from 7a.m. to 4a.m., and there are massive religious processions instead of chocolate Easter eggs and marshmallow peeps. The Roman Catholic tradition in Spain is deeply rooted, so it’s no surprise that when a religious holiday is celebrated, Spaniards go all out.
This is pretty much what goes on outside of my bedroom window.
Please enjoy the melodramatic music.
The weeks leading up to Semana Santa, or Holy Week, begin in February during Carnaval. Carnaval basically involves dressing up in costumes, going to botellónes (a.k.a. drinking in the streets), and heading over to the discoteca. Carnival also marks the beginning of Lent, which is when we are supposed to give up bad habits and look forward to becoming better people.
“Carnaval 2011. John Lennon y Yoko Ono.”
(Compliments of my sister-in-law).
Once the 40 days of Lent had passed, my mother-in-law presented us with piles of deliciously fried drunk food typical Semana Santa pastries.
And these little guys are called “rosquillos.” Look familiar?
I should mention that each province, and sometimes each town within a province, usually has its own holiday pastry (as well as its own typical food dish and accent/dialect). So my mother-in-law’s pastries shown above might not be familiar to Spaniards in other provinces.
With pastries at hand, Holy Week had officially begun.
Why yes, I woke up unusually early to take all of the following pictures for your entertainment! My under-eye circles really hope you’ll enjoy them.
Those wearing capuchones, or hoods, are called penitentes, or people doing penance. Unfortunately, in U.S. history the KKK is known for wearing similar hoods while committing racist acts of violence and murder. But the hoods used in Semana Santa does not bear the same significance.
The creepy-looking capuchones gained popularity during the Spanish Inquisition, when thousands of people were being persecuted for their religious beliefs. By using a capuchón, people were able to keep their identity under wraps from nosy neighbors while still participating in their religious customs. Nowadays most Spaniards participate in penitente activities because it’s cool and they enjoy anonymously marching underneath my bedroom window and chanting things like, “Sleep, you need sleep? Bua.Ha.Ha.Ha.”
Rumor has it that a couple hundred years ago, the Catholic Church was looking for ways to keep civilians from straying over to the new religious movements that were coming about. Since most people were illiterate, the Church decided that having loud and colorful marching parades allowing them to demonstrate their faith was the way to go. And people were like, “Yeah, Church! You so fly! I guess we’ll stay!”
Several women also participate as “penitentes” in the processions, wearing beautiful lace scarves called “mantillas”.
Little kids dress up as Roman soldiers, which you have to admit is freakin’ adorable.
And of course, there is the main attraction – an elaborately dressed, metric-ton statue of the Virgen María.
Really, she’s that huge. I just love waking up at the crack of dawn to find her porcelain face floating by our second-story window.
I always think of Monty Python’s chanting monks whenever I hear a procession in the distance. Okay, it’s a bit immature of me, but the 10th second of this video never fails to make me laugh.