Days are getting longer and temperatures are rising. That means only one thing, spring is coming, and Easter celebrations together with it! The whole Easter week, also called Semana Santa, is the most important Catholic holiday in Spain. Each region in Spain has its own customs and practices during the Holy Week. Let’s have a look at how people celebrate throughout the whole country, and especially in Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital.
You can see a lot of traditions like processions and religious ceremonies in all over Spain. If you fancy experiencing the most extraordinary parades, Andalusia is the right place to go. In that region, the most spectacular festivities take place. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world gather in Andalusian capital, Seville, to witness the celebrations and extravagant “pasos”. Paso is an enormous float adorned with life-size wooden statues of biblical characters, designed especially for religious processions.
In Catalonia, it is a bit different. The processions aren’t as spectacular as in the rest of the country. On the other hand, there are other amazing traditions that are worth witnessing and taking part in:
Mona de Pascua
One of Barcelona’s most famous Easter traditions is “Mona de Pascua“. In fact, it is a cake of different flavors decorated with chocolate Easter eggs, colorful feathers, and little chicks. Mona is the Moroccan word for gift. Therefore, godparents give this cake to children on Easter Sunday. They will then enjoy it on Easter Monday together with the whole family.
Traditional Monas were round with hard boiled eggs in them. Nowadays, this delicacy has evolved and can be decorated with breathtaking chocolate creations and filled with crème brûlée, chocolate, cream or butter. The cake can take the form of small houses, footballs, and faces of popular cartoon characters. Whatever suits the godchild. Each egg represents a year of the child’s life from 2 to 12 years old. Eggs are the most important element of Easter in many places around Europe because they are part of the symbolism related to the arrival of spring and the fertility rituals. Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, you can still enjoy the traditional cake. Mona de Pascua doesn’t have to be only sweet. Many people enjoy it with savory products such as cured meat.
Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos)
Once again, godparents play an important role in Easter celebrations in Barcelona. On Palm Sunday, the week before Easter Sunday, they give children palm leaves turned into beautiful decorative shapes. Boys receive tall palms (palmónes) and girls intricately woven palms (palmas). It takes a lot of skills to create those. But don’t worry, if you want to get one, you can buy it at the market stands outside the Cathedral, Sagrada Familia or on Rambla Catalunya.
During the service, the priest comes out to bless the Palmónes and Palmas with holy water. It is in the memory of Jesus‘ journey to Jerusalem, where the path was lined up with palm leaves. At the end of the day, some people will leave their palm leaves on the balcony as a decoration to dry out. On Ash Wednesday, they are all burnt and the priest uses the ashes to draw a cross on your forehead, marking the start of Lent.
Processions in Barcelona and its surroundings
For instance, the Silence Procession in Badalona dates back to the 17th century and distinguishes itself for being extremely quiet and lit only by candlelight. It starts at around 10 pm and the silence is eventually broken only by singing traditional songs. Another noteworthy festivity is Tarragona’s Procession of Loneliness where only women can take part. Death Dance in Verges is a great example of traditional Catalan theatre. It features gloomy sceletons and dancers in black robes moving to the sound of drums.
We can’t forget to mention Andalusian-style processions in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat near Barcelona. Many people from Andalusia arrived in Barcelona looking for work in the 1960s and a large community set up in this neighborhood. In 1977 they started their own parade in their home style. In the city of Barcelona, there is a procession on Palm Sunday in the Raval area. On Good Friday, which is called ‘Divendres Sant’ in the Catalan language and ‘Viernes Santo’ in the Spanish language, some other processions take place there.
Coming to Barcelona for the Easter holiday
You should keep in mind the public holiday if you’re visiting Barcelona during Easter. Shops and the majority of museums will be closed on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. On the other hand, many restaurants will welcome you with open arms to accommodate you for a nice family dinner. Experiencing Easter festivities in Barcelona is definitely something you should add to your bucket list. See you there!
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