Semana Santa in Spain
It’s our first Semana Santa in Spain and we’re enjoying it for several reasons. Throughout the world this is a time of religious significance with Easter. We also relate it to the time of ‘Spring Break’ and the glorious changing of seasons from winter into spring. This is the case here, yet with some additional distinct traits that we’re getting to learn and experience. Here’s our up-close and personal encounter of Holy Week in Spain.
Semana Santa Smells Amazing!
May sound strange, but it’s true. It smells so good around here during Semana Santa! Now, we do think it usually smells good here; after all, we live right on the Mediterranean Sea. But this time of year, it’s even better. The small beach-side village of Xeraco is full of orange groves. Along with rice being grown in the nearby Albufera, it’s one of the main agricultural industries in this part of Spain. Now is the time of year that the orange trees are full of orange blossoms, or in Spanish azahar. The floral fragrance is in the air all the time now. Combine that with the fresh sea breezes of the salty Mediterranean and it’s heaven!
Every now and then we catch a whiff of freshly baking pastries, breads, or savory paella and grilled meat cooking. With all these good smells, it’s not so bad and easy to forget when a small cloud of firecracker smoke brings a less enjoyable scent. That leads to the next part of Semana Santa.
Above Image – The almond trees are also full of fragrant, beautiful blossoms at this time of year.
Semana Santa is Full of Explosive Noise
We had heard it before, but now know for ourselves – it’s true that Spaniards love noise. But not just any noise. They especially love the deafening, startling noise of firecrackers and explosions. It doesn’t matter the age and if anything we’re becoming convinced that it’s the adults who love setting off firecrackers even more than the children. Sure, it may look at first like they’re doing it for their kinds, but nah; it’s for themselves just as much.
Semana Santa tends to start the Thursday before Easter Weekend. Yet even by Wednesday, in our teeny tiny village, there were already firecrackers being set off from mid-day and into the night. On Sunday itself, they were every hour it seemed. And they are so loud and startling. The smoke billows out and blows around, attributing a sense of celebration to the smoky smell.
Let’s not forget too that here in the Valencia community (or region), the Fallas festivals just ended last Sunday, a week before. The two occasions were back to back this year. Those three or more weeks of festivities were the loudest of all. We have friends living right in the heart of the city that attest to the loud explosions and firecrackers occurring from early morning and throughout night, every single day. We’re sure that Semana Santa is even louder in the city center than it is for us here in a small village.
Semana Santa is Family & Food Time
All along our block and throughout our village, we see so many families gathering together to cook and eat. They enjoy the beach in the morning and by early afternoon are on their front porches and in yards for the biggest meal of the day, lunch. Around here, they set up plastic tables and chairs, umbrellas for shade, and bring out a simple grill pit. The kids run around playing, setting of firecrackers of course, and the adults relax together while they cook, sip on beers and catch up.
What most Spaniards do on this particular Sunday depends. Some families go out to eat, so a lot of restaurants are open. Or many families gather in someone’s home to cook and eat together. Either way, what we’ve seen is that this is one of the major vacation breaks around this time of year. People take off anywhere from the entire week leading up to Easter Sunday, to the Thursday before Easter Sunday for a long weekend. Most local businesses and government offices seem to be closed the Thursday before through the Monday or Tuesday after.
Images Below (left to right) – This is the closest thing to an Easter Egg that we saw. The large dish is Patatas al Pobre, which means ‘potatoes of the poor’.
While tradition has this time as a very religious holiday, it seems that many Spaniards, especially the younger families, don’t celebrate this aspect of it. In small villages, like where Amalia’s mother lives in Extremadura, and the cities alike, they have processions of John the Baptist, the Christ, and the Virgin Mary. But it seems that most people today enjoy this as a tradition, more than give it religious meaning.
Above Image – In villages like Higuera la Real in Extremadura, they run with the Virgin Mary as part of the procession.
All the way around, we’re discovering Semana Santa to be a beautiful and fantastic time of year to visit Spain and to be living in Spain. From the smells and celebratory spirit to the changing of seasons and time with family, it’s a great way to experience Spain.
Have you traveled during Easter Week? If so, where and what was it like? We’d love to hear about your experience.
Written by Amalia & Eric
Founders & Producers of Move to Traveling