Easter in Spain – A Must-Have Experience for Spain-Lovers
Easter in Spain is considered to be the most important holiday in the country. So it’s no surprise that it’s a great way to take your experience of the Spanish culture to another level. Known as Semana Santa (Holy Week), it is celebrated all throughout the country, yet varies depending on the region.
Many of the places that are most known for this holiday, have stunningly beautiful events that will immerse you in an experience of art and tradition. And while there is the solemn, religious aspect, there is even more so the Spanish love for fiesta. This holiday is something that every Spain-lover should experience when visiting, so here’s an introduction to celebrating Easter in Spain.
The Key Dates
In general, local Spaniards usually get days off from work the week before Easter Sunday and the week after, with many even getting the entire two weeks off. It depends on what region they live in.
Yet everywhere in Spain, the important days celebrated are Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos), Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday (Domingo de Resurrección), and Easter Monday (Lunes de Pascua).
Like all holidays in Spain, and any occasion for fiesta, Semana Santa will affect local business hours, transportation and other services, so double check holiday schedules when traveling through Spain around this time.
Places Most Known for Celebrating Easter in Spain
Above Image – An Easter procession in Trujillo, in the region of Extremadura.
By far, the region known for celebrating Easter the most is Andalucia. Here, the celebrations involve elaborate processions and everyone seems to take part.
Seville in particular has become world-famous for the artistry of their Semana Santa events, with traditions dating back to the 16th century. They have colorful parades where pasos, large, intricate floats of biblical characters and scenes, are carried throughout the city center. Each float is carried by its respective brotherhood, called a cofradia.
The most important nights of Seville’s celebrations are Holy Tuesday when the processions begin marching to the Cathedral, and Maundy Thursday, the last night of the procession. The next day, Good Friday, is referred to as La Madrugá and also a great day to witness more parades and reenactments that take place in front of the Cathedral.
Above Video – A hilarious, fictional clip of a cofradia carrying a float in Seville, from the movie ‘Ocho Apellidos Catalanes’. We recommend seeing the movie with English substitles to practice your Spanish.
Malaga is similarly as spectacular and their pasos combine religious parades with military parades, music, incense and flowers, filling the streets with vivid color and celebration. Their massive, decorated floats are called tronos and they are carried by local church members through the streets. One of the most moving events though is the ritual of freeing a prisoner, who is then blessed by the figure playing Jesus Christ.
Another great place to celebrate Easter in Spain is Cáceres, in the northern part of the region of Extremadura. Here, and in the neighboring small town of Trujillo, the traditions date back to the 15th century. Their most important day though is the evening of Holy Wednesday, when a 14th century statue called the Cristo Negro, is carried through the streets and everyone is in complete silence.
Other towns known for their Semana Santa celebrations are Salamanca, Zamora, Valladolid, Granada, Murcia, Cartagena, Cuenca, and Lorca. Yet even if you’re not in one of these locations, celebrations take place in all the cities and towns, and even small villages. If you’re in Spain during this holiday, you won’t have a hard time finding and taking part in the culturally rich celebrations.
The Traditional Foods for Easter in Spain
Above Image – Not everything on the table is traditional for Easter, but the ‘panquemado’ and ‘longanizas’ are.
Like all holidays, Easter in Spain also means special, traditional foods that are made only at this time of year. The most popular, and delicious, are the torrijas, which are essentially French Toast. The recipe is slices of bread soaked in either milk, syrup or wine, coated in egg, and then fried in olive oil. It’s then flavored with cinnamon and sweetened with honey, molasses or sugar.
The most typical meal of Easter in Spain is on Easter Sunday. This is usually a family meal, when everyone comes together to cook and eat in the home. It usually consist of garlic soup (sopa de ajo), which contains a whole, boiled egg. Or seafood is also popular to have for this meal.
Then there’s pestiños, which are deep-fried fritters that are crunchy, flavored with anise and orange, and glazed with honey or sugar. They’re mostly found in the region of Andalusia.
In the regions of Catalonia and Valencia, the most popular Easter treat is the Mona de Pascua. These Easter cakes are essentially a sweet bread ring that has whole eggs baked into the top and is sprinkled with sugar and candied pieces of fruit. Nowadays, some are even filled with cream or covered in chocolate.
What is especially found in Valencia for Easter in Spain, are the buñuelos. These fried, doughnut-like fritters are also made with pumpkin, and then traditionally dipped in a bowl of sugar when eating. There are so many other delicious, traditional foods in this area during Easter, like panquemado, longaniza, and more.
Some Cultural Aspects of Easter in Spain
Above Image – The mourners, a traditional role in the Easter processions.
You can’t miss the pointed hoods that are worn by many during the Easter celebrations in Spain. Fortunately, they mean something quite different here than they do in other parts of the world, like in the US. Here in Spain, the pointed hoods are not sinister and are worn by the religious brotherhoods. Most cities and towns have many brotherhoods, which have historical meaning. They are one of the main components of the processions.
Then there are mourners. These are usually women, who are dressed in black, carrying candles and wearing veils of lace. They accompany the brotherhoods and the floats.
For the children, there is the tradition of making a ball of wax. During the processions, many of the adults are carrying candles, so when they come to a standstill or stop to rest, the children will come over to add their dripping wax to their ball. In this way, they compete with each other to see who can make the biggest wax ball.
Easter in Spain is still a very religious festival. It is especially a time for being with family and attending masses in the church. This can mean some somber occasions and even during certain processions there is the tradition of silence. On the other hand, many people take part for the local traditions and culture, and overall it is a time for celebration with events and food. As fiestas are known for in Spain, it has plenty of boisterousness, music and cheering, stunning artistry and craftsmanship.
Has America’s Easter Bunny infiltrated Spain? In some small ways yes, but mainly no. Since living here, we can see that Easter Bunny chocolate figurines, painted eggs, and dolls are for sale as soon as April begins.
On the other hand, we don’t see many families celebrating Easter egg hunts or giving Easter baskets, as is traditional in the US. Overall, Spaniards still celebrate the long-held traditions of the family meal together and the processions and parades, more than anything else.
The Uniqueness of Easter in Spain
Easter can be a holiday easy to overlook when traveling. But when it comes to Easter in Spain, it is one of the best times you can visit for an immersive experience. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the beautiful pageantry, elaborate art and rich culture found in the centuries of tradition preserved by this holiday.
There are many cities and towns in Spain whose Easter week celebrations have even been declared as International Tourist Interest in Spain, such as the ones we mentioned above and others. With each one being unique and varying by region, you can experience Easter in Spain every year, and each time learn something different.
Have you ever experienced Easter in Spain? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
Written by Amalia & Eric
Founders & Producers of Move to Traveling
We’re Amalia and Eric – a traveling couple who are living a traveling lifestyle. Do you love to travel? Perfect! Come along…