If you’re in North America or northern Europe this weekend, chances are any holiday celebrations going on around you involve eggs, chocolate and perhaps a bunny rabbit or two.
In Spain, Portugal and former Spanish colonies, however, Easter is marked by processions of religious penitents, who march through the streets of their cities wearing elaborate costumes and carrying litters bearing statues of Jesus and other religious figures.
I was lucky enough to experience Semana Santa in Spain one year while I was studying abroad. For the weeks leading up to the holiday, my neighborhood thrummed nightly to the sounds of penitents practicing the drums they would beat to keep time when they marched during Easter.
On the days of the processions, crowds of people flocked to the city center to watch the be robed penitents slowly drum and step their way along the parade route. Some of them, despite the still-chill weather, were barefoot. Others dragged chains around their ankles. The drummers beat their instruments so hard and for such a duration that the skin on their wrists cracked open and left bloody smears on the white tops of their drums. It was a cultural experience I will never forget.
However, the festival of Semana Santa, as pious as it is, is not all drums and self-punishment. It’s a sign of spring. A holiday free from work or school and a chance to catch up with relatives, hit the beach if the weather’s nice enough, and celebrate centuries of culture.
Have you visited Spain during the Semana Santa?
Hi! I’m Beth. Thanks for visiting Everyday Travel Stories, a site that celebrates all of the glorious travel opportunities on our planet.