Easter in the UK means two things: 1) a long weekend and 2) the inevitable onset of nausea after eating one too many Lindt chocolate bunnies. In Spain, things are a little different…
Don’t be alarmed if you’re confronted by an army of solemnly marching locals, shuffling along to the beat of a drum, dressed in what can only be described as a Ku Klux Klan uniform. There, I said it. And don’t deny that you haven’t thought it too. But what does it all mean?
At university we had it drilled into us that Catholicism is still very predominant in Spain. Despite the illusion that the cura, marujas and relentless call-for-mass church bells may give you, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of youths here are not avid churchgoers. But many religious traditions are still driven forwards by older generations – traditions like that in the video above. This sombre procession, that’s somewhat bizarre to foreigners who happen to come across it, is something that I jokingly like to call The Pointy Hat Parade.
They are in fact called nazarenos or vestas, local Catholics who take part in Holy Week festivities along with the rest of their repenting brotherhood (hermandades and cofradías). A path is followed, passing by churches, cathedrals and main squares and viewing points with each brotherhood wearing a different coloured costume consisting of penitential robes and a large, pointed hood. Despite possible risqué connotations, I’m told that the latter has nothing to do with the KKK and shares no link whatsoever to lynchings and/or the burning of crosses.
The costume itself goes back hundreds of years. The pointed hat, or capirote, is even featured in some of Francisco de Goya’s Caprichos, showing that the conical head gear has been used for acts of penitance since at least the 18th Century. The gaudy-coloured robes actually make you wonder if the nazarenos are doomed to walk an extra 100 yards every Easter in order to repent for their yearly sins against fashion.
All jokes aside, it’s obvious that there are some talented musicians who take part in the parades and brotherhood members often practice for months in advance. How else would they be able to walk in such solemn unison while drumming/blowing on a tuba with only two little eye holes to see through? That shit takes practice.
As for other parts of Spain, Semana Santa festivities are extremely popular in Seville – and Holy Week is often closely followed by their all-singing, all-dancing (literally) Andalucia a tope Feria de Abril festival. Advice: steer clear of Seville in April if you’re not a fan of Spanish folklore.
If the idea of flamenco, polka dots and wailing gypsies fills you with fear and you’d rather go and have a gawp closer to home, head to the Malvarosa beach area (Marinera de Valencia) from the 28th of March to the 5th of April. Watch your head, though, if you venture down to the poblats maritims on Easter Sunday – the trencà dels perols sees residents throwing water and old pots and pans out of the window under the vague pretence of «out with the old, in with the new». Valencian town Torrent also puts on a good «show» from the 29th of March.
Enjoy! But not too much – they are repenting for their sins after all.
For all you expats in Spain – I hope someone you love sends you a Lindt bunny this Easter.
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