Semana Santa – Spain’s Holy Week Traditions Honoring the Crucifixion & Subsequent Resurrection of Jesus Christ!
Semana Santa is the Holy Week you’ll never forget!
The Holy Week of Semana Santa
For christians around the world, the week leading up to Easter is the holy week, or semana santa. This holiday is celebrated all over the world, but when it comes to Spain’s celebration of holy week, nothing quite compares to Semana Santa.
The Semana Santa festival is held each year at the End of March through the first week of April. It began as a a holy celebration of the death and birth of Christ. The Semana Santa festival is held every year in Spain and features an incredible showcase of traditional costumes, tribal dances, parades in the street, live music and much more. Though Semana Santa is overtly religious, many non-Christians and non-religious people gather together with the whole community to celebrate.
Over the years, the beauty and pageantry of Semana Santa has inspired similar festivals across the country and stands out as being one of the most extravagant holy week experiences in the world.
Semana Santa Beginnings
Semana Santa is believed to have come about when Easter was first being celebrated to honor the crucified Jesus. Many of this holidays are in line with the world’s celebration of holy week.
After Semana Santa became a celebration of the birth of Jesus, religious festival activities became apart of the annual traditions. People begin their celebrations by attending mass in honor of the Christ. Semana Santa begins with an opening mass, signified by a public procession of dancing and the loud rhythm of drumming. You don’t have to be Catholic or Christian at all to participate in the mass or Semana Santa in general. Just be show up, and respectfully watch, dance, and celebrate along with everyone else!
Day two of Semana Santa starts at daybreak with a procession of rosaries and a community mass. The heavy emphasis on religious activity is due impart to the people’s belief that Jesus will protect everyone and watch over their friends and family.
Many people that aren’t that into the religious aspect of the festival arrive to Semana Santa for the final Sunday. This is the largest procession of the festival and is mostly geared toward visitors and tourists. Groups that are from different tribes will wear traditional costumes and garments and dance in a procession while parading around different images and representations of Jesus.
All participants in this procession are competing for prizes. The winners are crowned at the Masquerade Ball late that night, the final celebration of Semana Santa
Costumes and Color
Festival lovers that are interested in attending Semana Santa will see a huge resemblance to other celebrations of Jesus’ resurrection around the world. People tend to dress in black leading up to the Easter Sunday, when they don all white outfits in celebration of the resurrection. Following the Sunday church services, you will see the main Easter Sunday celebration feature dancing, costumed attendees parades and feasts.
Consider bringing along costumes or accessories with you if you would like to join in on the celebrations. While you can’t necessarily join the parade, there will be thousands of people celebrating alongside the processions that will be dressed up as well.
All Week Long
It is no exaggeration that Semana Santa is indeed a week long festival that lasts from dawn to dusk every single day. If you stay the entire week, do your best to plan out your schedule accordingly. You do not have to attend every event that happens throughout the week—try to pick and choose which celebrations you go to so that you don’t end up burned out by the end of everything.
Throughout the entire festival, you will spend the majority of Semana Santa watching processions as well as dancing your feet off every day! Prepare to do a lot of walking by wearing comfortable shoes. Be sure to drink a lot of water so you stay healthy and hydrated throughout the week.
Getting to Spain
It may take you several hours to arrive, but the trip is well worth the travel. Try to book your flights far in advance as the cheaper more direct flights will sell very quickly. If you don’t want to end up with two day layovers, do your research before buying your tickets.
When booking your hotels and accommodations, shop around. The best places to stay are the hotels near the heart of the festival, right in the middle of all the action. Book fast because nearly everyone else will try to stay at these hotels too! If you can’t get a room nearby, locals and veteran attendees recommend camping on the beach or staying in a neighboring city.
Be sure to check out travel restrictions before booking your flight to the festival sight. The governments of certain countries during particular times of the year may not allow travel to this Spanish city so be sure to check for this.
The Food of Semana Santa
While you’re in Spain, try to eat as many authentic meals as possible! Many of the festivities at Semana Santa include feasting on traditional dishes. The most celebrated restaurants in the offer affordable and traditional Spanish food. Try the Latte Café for some tea or coffe and tasty appetizers. Tamboy’s is a favorite for lunch or dinner as well as Nino’s Ihaw-Ihaw an for great food that is inexpensive and Gabriel’s Food for incredible Filipino burgers. Try Peil Crepes and Ice Cream Restaurant for incredible sweet treats and desserts. Once you taste all that Spain has to offer, you’ll wish the festival lasted all month!
What to wear to Semana Santa
When choosing your clothing choices forS emana Santa you may want to take a quick peek at pictures of the festival from former years. While you definitely aren’t expected to wear traditional clothing or costumes, you may get inspired by what you see and base your outfit choices on the bright colors, beaded designs, or traditional patterns that the locals will be wearing.
The weather during Semana Santa should be very warm and tropical so dress comfortably. Try to wear lightweight fabrics and lighter colors to keep the sun at bay. Do wear dresses, shorts, t-shirts and anything that you can move freely in throughout the week. Do bring an exciting outfit or creative mask to wear during Sunday’s Masquerade ball. Consider using a bit of creativity and make your own mask or costume. Check out what people have worn to past Masquerades and plan accordingly.
Tips for Attending Semana Santa
Before you hop on the plane to get to Spain, take some time to do some research on the culture, history and significance of the celebrations. The more informed you are about the events and beliefs of the Filipino people and traditions, the more authentic the experience will be for you.
Try your best to get involved in at least one of the religious activities so you can get a better understanding of the history of the holiday. Be respectful of the more private aspects of the tradition, like mass. While a lot ofSemana Santa is a huge party, some festival participants take the religious aspects very seriously.
While participating in the Semana Santa events, try to chat with other attendees or some of the performers. You may just get a totally new insight on the festival!
Outside of Semana Santa
Many people that come to visit Semana Santa come as a way to finally make a trip to Antigua which is totally fine! Semana Santa lasts a week, so make sure you pack your schedule full of all the sights and sounds you want to see before the festival ends.
Many people that attend Semana Santa book an extra week in order to either go to neighboring festivals or just take a look around the rest of the city. One of the best places to visit in the city is the Bakhawan Eco-Park and Research Centre and the Sapmaguita Gardens Take a look at this amazing Mangrove Park as well as the gardens to take a break from all the drumming and parades of people.
If you want to continue with the Catholic overtones, take a visit to the historical St. John the Baptist Cathedral, it’s truly breathtaking. Don’t forget to stop by the Museo it Akean for a deeper look into the art and history of the people of Kalibo. Visit the beach at Ingus-Ingus Hill and rest for a few days after your intense week of Semana Santa festivities.
So whether this is your first trip to Spain or you’ve visited several times, make sure you’re at Semana Santa this year!
Visit information about festivals section to explore a full list of festivals happening around the world yearly!