It was Semana Santa! I was in Spain! And I was in Sevilla, the mecca of all Semana Santa celebrations! And it. was. spectacular. Definitely a bucket list item for me that I can happily say is now checked complete. Semana Santa means Holy Week and is the week leading up to Easter. Being able to watch the tradition of the processions and dedication and pride of the people during the processions was really inspiring and moving.
During Semana Santa, there are processions held in every city in Spain. In Sevilla, they start from each church, and start and end at the same location. The processions are going on all throughout the day and night starting on Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. The best processions are said to occur on Thursday night into the early morning on Good Friday. These processions are also supposed to be silent, although rarely are they completely silent due to plenty of tourists that are not aware of this tradition. The processions are varied in their routes so if your hotel is next to one route, there is usually a break for a few hours (2-8 hours I would say depending on your location) before the next one will pass. However, all of them go by the Catedral de Sevilla, so that area is full of noise and celebration the entire time.
There is a schedule of processions, so you can always tell when each procession will go through certain areas. The participants consist of men and children, that make up the brotherhoods from each congregation. You can read more in depth about it here.
If you have never seen the pointed hoods (capirote) dress for the processions, it can be a little unnerving and look intimidating, but the mood is solemn yet joyous and not serious or threatening. There were plenty of kids dressed in these cloaks and hoods and they were often times caught talking to their parents or taking water. No spookiness at all.
The processions usually start with a cross and are followed by the brotherhoods dressed in the hoods and cloaks. They carry candles and there is wax all over the streets which gets thicker each day. During the sunny hours of midday it would squish under your shoes.
The Pasos, or images on floats, are carried by men, called Costaleros. Here’s an awesome video of how they prepare for Semana Santa and to carry el Pasos.
Then after each float, the band usually follows playing music. The float usually sways side to side with the music and sometimes speeds up or slows down accordingly as well, like in this video.
The music was my favorite part, and the floats were all truly stunning.
During the week, the people attending the processions were dressed in suits for men and dresses for women. Some women donned these black lace headdresses with all black dress, , la mantilla.
There were big crowds that would follow the procession from street to street so you could tell where the processions were headed or had just past by the flow of foot traffic through the streets. At times it was difficult to get around, but the police had certain points where they would let you through, and it was very common for people to just walk right through the processions when it was stopped or momentarily paused.
Sevilla is a really special city only made better by being able to witness such a grand celebration. I generally love anything that gives honor and respect and this was a really great showing of honor and respect of Catholics’ faith. It is worth attending no matter your personal beliefs.