New York City may have picked up the nickname, the city that never sleeps, Rio de Janeiro is known for its Carnaval and Kentucky for its fried chicken, but Seville is definitely in a league of its own when it comes to Holy Week. Sure, some people may be thinking that religion is not “groovy” anymore, but many of our traditions find their roots in our spiritual heritage, such as the Semana Santa de Sevilla, one of Spain’s most amazing celebrations.
Holy Week kicks off on Palm Sunday (today) and ends on Easter Domingo. Seville definitely gives this week a truly unique and special spin unlike any other town. During this week-long celebration, visitors and residents in the city have the privilege of observing a unique tradition that can be traced back hundreds of years. The procession of pasos, massive floats with sculptures detailing events of the Passion and other interesting religious characters we have grown to respect throughout our upbringing come out of the woodwork to delight us all.
The processions are organized by hermandades (religious brotherhoods). As these groups march through the tiny streets of the city centre, members precede the pasos dressed in penitential robes and in some cases, their attire includes curious hoods. For those of us growing up with Hollywood blasting out of our living room television set, we find a similarity to those infamous Klu Klux Klan ruffians, aside from the different colour of the wardrobe. These processions can have a neighbourhood brass band trailing alongside them and locals throw flower petals at the passers-by. Spaniards are truly musical and festive people.
The route that these processions follow move along a designated path, starting from their home churches and chapels, all the way to the Cathedral in the casco antiguo. The Cathedral of Seville is one of the largest in Europe, if not the biggest of them all. Even the neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city actually make the trip, hauling their heavy floats and return them to their home parish. Their run can last up to 14 hours so I am sure those men must be in fantastic shape as they pay their yearly homage to Christianity and tradition.
The processions conclude early Easter Sunday morning. I suppose there aren’t any bunnies leaving chocolate shaped droppings for little Spanish kids to enjoy. The most important night is Thursday, when the most popular processions arrive at the Cathedral to tip off Good Friday under faint dawn sunlight. If you have the time, do arrive early, pick a spot and camp out to enjoy this amazing way of celebrating Semana Santa. ¡Olé!