Saturday, April 7, 2012

Semana Santa/Holy Week In Spain

All throughout the Christian world it is Easter time. Next to Christmas, Easter is the time we remember the crucifixion of Christ and celebrate his resurrection. In Spain, this week is called Semana Santa and is bigger than Christmas. The entire week before Easter Sunday the processions start to commemorate this event. It is like nothing we have ever experienced in our lives. We felt like we would devote a special blog post to share this event. We were invited by Presidente and Hermana Blanco of the Sevilla Stake to take in a day and learn of the traditions. We will have our normal blog tomorrow so you will not see any missionaries on this post. We hope this will help you understand another culture and what your missionary is seeing and experiencing this week.
Many people have the entire week off. Families come out, young and old alike. Many dress up in their finest clothing and have reserved seating. People come from all over to see and experience the Holy Week in Sevilla. It is known as the biggest celebration in Spain.
The "parade" is made up from each church sharing their "floats" which depict a scene in the life of Christ and the Virgin Maria. There are many churches in Sevilla and so there are many different groups participating in the procession. They walk the streets between 3-4 in the afternoon until 2-3 in the morning. And one night it will go all night.
The city is decorated with royal drapes on their verandas.
As you can see on the top drape in this picture, a palm leaf is also attached, symbolizing the palm leaves that were placed in front of Christ as he entered into Jerusalem for the feast of the passover.
Families are coming from all over the city. Here we have one small Nazarene. All over the city are people in these kind of outfits with their candles, racing to get to the place where they will begin to march. The Nazarenes come in all sizes. Some are small.....
and some are large. They walk and mingle throughout the city as they gather to where they will be marching with their group. Every church has a different color and a different patch on the front of their outfit with the name of their parish on it.
We gathered in one of the areas and finally the band came. The beginning of each parish begins with a band playing beautiful music. There are several well known numbers that they play. They are leading the group through the streets.
The bands are filled with coronets, trumphets, clarinets and lots and lots of drummers. They are young and old alike.
Following the initial band, the Nazarenes will follow. You can see the Nazarenes with their pointed hats in the background as they are lead by a few young children. They have candy in their baskets that they share with many of the children watching.
The Nazarenes come in all sizes as well. You can see the patch on the front of his shirt. Each group will have their name on their patch. Many of these were young people. Some of them were walking in their stocking feet and some were barefoot. They cover their heads and are walking in front of the first "float" as a demonstration of their love for the Savior. Their heads are covered to show their humility. Many of them carry these pure silver torches while the rest have a large candle that will be lit when it becomes dark. Some groups have as many as 1,500 Nazarenes marching.
As the first float is approaching, which is always depicting something of the Savior's life, the smell of incense is very strong. Back hundreds of years ago the incense was put out to cover the smell of so many people gathered to witness the procession. Fortunately we live in a much cleaner society now, but the incense is still a big part of the procession.
A group of smartly dressed men are just in front of the float. They are the carriers of the incense and more silver candlsticks.
And now the gold clad float comes by, moving with the sounds of the band's music. These are not propelled on wheels or tractors, but they are carried by men. Usually 35 men are underneath, marching and swaying in sync with each other. This is a high privilege to be one of these men. They work out and work together doing practice runs throughout the streets weeks before the start of the processions. And they have to pay to be one of the ones to carry the float.
Here you can see a few shoes of the 35 men that are underneath. They stand very close together, each having his space divided by wood. There is no room for clastrophobia here. It is very important to work together. There is a man who calls out orders that is walking at the front of the float. Some of these floats are 3-700 years old. They rest in the church all year and come out once a year for this celebration.
Following the first float is another band.
Following the second band are the people called the Penatent. These people are carrying their own cross to repent and give up their sins. They used to be made out of wood and some people would carry several crosses. Some of them would crawl throughout the procession. Now they are only allowed to carry one cross and they must walk.
And finally, the float with the Virgin Mary comes by. They all seem to be very similar except for her coat. Some of them, like this one is sewn with gold thread. Her hands and face have been made by an artist many centuries before. They are surrounded by white candles and white flowers. Also they all had the canopy over her. It was interesting to see the entire crowd come to a hush as a Virgin comes by.
After their time of parading has past, some of the carriers are taking a break. You can see the wrap that they put on their head to protect them from the heat and the rubbing that happens to the back of their necks and heads.
And as we were leaving we saw other Nazarenes hurrying to where they will be marching. The parades go on until Easter Sunday. The entire afternoon was an interesting day to understand the culture in Spain.

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