This coming Sunday is when Spain enters in to what is a very special time of the year â€“ Holy Week (Semana Santa). Medieval traditions come to life on the streets of the towns and villages and it’s a great time for visiting and learning about these rituals.
Of course, the most well-known Easter celebrations take place in AndalucĂa, although there are other regions where the festivities are almost as pompous, and certainly more so than in the capital. However, in Madrid (and in any other city in fact) there is always something to see at this special time of year. For this reason and if you’re in Spain during this season, make sure that you organize your time such that you are able to take in at least one procession. You’ll see mysterious, hooded characters in “capirotes”, women in beautiful mantillas and huge figures being carried on massive platforms against a backdrop of live music (depending on the day and region, sometimes the processions will take place in absolute silence). You’ll also see men’s feet sticking out from under the heavy platforms which they carry on their shoulders – these men are members of the brotherhoods which dedicate many weeks of their time before Easter to practice carrying them. You’ll witness another dimension of religious practice dating back to the middle-ages, steeped in ancient, yet living tradition.
Processions start on Palm Sunday and take place on a daily basis (providing the weather is conducive for doing so â€“ unfortunately, rain stops them from taking place). The official holidays and therefore the most festive celebrations take place on Thursday and Friday.
However, Easter Week is not just about processions, but also delicious pastries and cakes prepared specially for the occasion and there are many varieties. The most popular in Madrid are the Torillas (somewhat akin to French toasts), although in the nearby AlcalĂˇ de Henares, penitents de chocolate y almendras (cones with chocolate and almond cream, resembling the shape of a penitent’s head covering).
The photos below were taken in Madrid during Palm Sunday(Domingo de Ramos) last year and the sweet penitentes are, of course, from AlcalĂˇ.