Now you might ask: “What in the WORLD is a Jew doing at Spain’s holiest Catholic celebration of the year?!” Well my friends, there were (many) moments when I asked myself the same exact thing this past week. WTF am I doing here. But, curiosity kills the cat, ya know?
I happen to be living a mere hour from Sevilla, which holds the most famous Semana Santa celebrations in all of Spain. So as much as I’m not into religion and all things of the sort, I had to check it out. After all, I can’t say no to a fiesta. Or an opportunity to feel a bit of culture shock (Call me an adrenaline junkie if you must, it’s OK 😉 )
Watch my video.
So, what is Semana Santa?
Here’s a 20 second rundown of what this week is about. Semana Santa is Spain’s version of “Holy Week.” It’s all about the resurrection of the big man JC (no, not a rapper…Jesus). It leads up to Pascua, or Easter Sunday, each day with different processions filling the streets. Every single Spanish city, from my tiny pueblo to monster Madrid, celebrates the week with daily processions; but none celebrate it like Sevilla does. You’ll find the streets filled with 17th century floats of big man JC and the Virgin Mary, surrounded by parades of nnitnitentes. You know, those people that resemble the KKK (come on, don’t tell me you weren’t thinking it…) But I assure you, it’s NOT what you think.
These penitentes marching the streets are adults and children just like me and you…
The only difference is that they are representing their local church in the most important week of the year. I describe it as a talent show for the churches; each church has its own act (known as the procession), and they flaunt off their costumes (the hooded capirotes) and their sets (the floats) to the good people of Spain. Each church even has their own band complete with a lead singer (the saeta) and back ups! It was just like I was at a city-wide performance of “Jesus Chrust, Super Star!” Butttttt, not quite…
While the symbolism of Semana Santa is rather dark dreary, Spaniard’s don’t miss an excuse to fiesta. After all, nobody’s got work or school. Unless you’re a bartender.
My Take on It
Well, it was nothing like I have ever seen before! The festival truly depicts the value of “tradition” in the Spanish culture, which is cool.
It’s not exactly a “festive” festival. There’s music in the streets, but the music is rather dull and debatably dreary, as you can here the consistent beating of the drums in the background of my video. There’s also swarms of people in the streets, so if you want to make it to a procession, leave an hour and a half early. Also- maybe it’s just me, but all the processions begin to look alike after a while. Maybe it was the heat getting to me?
The lesson learned…
The Spanish people are EXTREMELY nonjudgmental when it comes to religion, and it’s a beautiful thing. Really. When I told the folks at home that I was going to Spain’s most religious Catholic ceremony, I got a lot of “WTF’s'” and “But why’s?”. When I told people in Sevilla that I was Jewish, I got one of three responses: laughter, blatant apathy, or “que bien!” (meaning, that’s great!) Religion here is more of a culture, rather than a rigid set of beliefs. While there aren’t many Jewish people here in Spain, there is no ignorant air of racism. Which is pretty awesome, if you ask me. People are people, as we can see under the penitentes uniforms! We just have different traditions that make are culture go ’round.
So, is it worth your visit?
Well that’s for YOU to decide! I’m glad I went. I’m glad I saw a celebration that is so far from anything I have ever seen in my life. Just imagine if this suddenly appeared in the States! MASS PANIC. So, if you happen to be close to Sevilla next year for Semana Santa, check it out! Just know what you’re getting yourself into…
So, what do you think? Is this a festival you’d want to check out? Do those penitentes got you feelin’ some type of way? Share, share, share!
Wanna see more posts from festivals around Spain? Check out my wild experience at Las Fallas, Valencia!