La Semana Santa
The Spanish word for 'Easter' is Pascua.
1. The fasting period of forty days that leads up to Easter is called Lent. The Spanish word for Lent is la Cuaresma. Lent represents the forty (cuarenta) days that Jesus spent praying and fasting in the desert after His baptism.
The period of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday - el Miércoles de Ceniza.
2. The seven days leading up to Easter Day are called Holy Week, or la Semana Santa in Spanish.
All over Spain, it is a week of spectacular street processions - procesiones.
3. The first day of la Semana Santa is Palm Sunday. In Spanish, it is el Domingo de Ramos. The word ramos means 'bouquets' and 'branches.'
On the morning of el Domingo de Ramos, Spanish people go to church - la iglesia - to celebrate the day when Jesús rode into Jerusalén and was welcomed by the people laying palm leaves on the ground in front of Him.
In Spain, when you go to church on Palm Sunday you carry a palm branch or an olive branch. The branches are then blessed by the priest.
4. During la Semana Santa, starting on el Domingo de Ramos, Spanish towns have street parades every day. In the processions, people carry and follow floats, known as pasos. On the floats, there are statues of Jesús and la Virgen María. Los pasos are beautifully decorated with flowers, gold, silver, candles and fine fabrics.
Photo below: una procesión del Domingo de Ramos.
5. The heavy floats are carried by men called costaleros. These men have the very difficult job of carrying the extremely heavy weight of the float. The costaleros practise for months so that the rhythm and speed of how they walk is perfect for the processions of Holy Week.
Los costaleros must carry the weight of the float on their shoulders and neck. In order to do this, their heads and shoulders are protected by a cushioned head scarf called un costal.
Photo: Un costalero during a procession of Holy Week (Semana Santa) in the Spanish city of Sevilla.
Los costaleros are hidden underneath the float, making el paso seem to glide along the road!
Below is a photo of costaleros practising how to carry a float.
6. After all the rehearsing, when the actual Easter processions take place, los costaleros in the photo above will be hidden by fabric draped all around the float.
The person in charge of the float is called el capataz. In the image below, he is checking that los costaleros are well-prepared underneath. It is his job to guide the float along its route. The men underneath cannot see where they are going so they must always listen to the commands and signals given by el capataz.
7. The floats (los pasos) are followed and surrounded by people known as los nazarenos. Another name for them is los penitentes.
Los nazarenos (or penitentes) are men, women and children who wear long robes. These people are unrecognisable because they wear veils to cover their faces. The veil is called un antifaz and it is usually draped over a tall, cone shaped hat known as un capirote.
Every nazareno and costalero
belongs to a 'Christian brotherhood' known as una cofradía or una hermandad. Each brotherhood is identified through the colours they wear.
During Holy Week, each brotherhood has a procession with its own nazarenos, costaleros, theme, musical band and route to follow. Whilst watching the processions, everyone thinks about the suffering of Jesús and the events leading up to the Crucifixion - la Crucifixión.
Sometimes, los nazarenos will be barefoot or have chains attached to their ankles. This discomfort helps them to think about the suffering of Jesus at the time of His death.
8. During the processions, often you will hear someone singing a special Easter song called una saeta. It is sung without music and it has a very special sound. It is sung in the open air by an individual singer to a statue in a procession. The singer's voice seems to be thrown or projected like an arrow or dart. It really does seem that the statue is alive and and has stopped to listen.
The sound of la saeta fills the whole area of the procession, for everyone to hear. The word saeta literally means 'dart.'
Saeta - Joana Jiménez
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