Easter Traditions in Spain
Easter is one of the most important annual celebrations in Spain and it’s steeped in tradition. People across the country come together to celebrate mass and hold religious processions. Contrary to many other countries, Easter in Spain focusses a lot on the religious importance, rather than a time for chocolate and egg hunts! There are many other Easter traditions in Spain and we will share some of them with you today.
Easter in Spain is known as Semana Santa (Holy Week), or Pascua. Semana Santa is a peaceful and solemn time, where people come together with friends and family to mourn the death of Jesus Christ. Don’t be fooled though, there is still time for gatherings and fiestas, with a five-day work break for most people in the country.
What are the Spanish Easter traditions?
La Cuaresma (Lent)
Easter is preceded by 40 days of fasting called La Cuaresma (Lent). Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday (the start of the Easter public holidays in Spain). Lent comprises of six Sundays, including Palm Sunday, and is a period of abstinence from meat and meat products on Fridays. More on this later in the Food and Drink section of the blog!
Palm Sunday Processions
Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week in Spain and signifies the end of La Cuaresma. In Catholic tradition, this celebrates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. Each town and city in Spain holds a Procesión de Domingo de Ramos, Palm Sunday Procession, in which followers carry hand-crafted figures made of palm and a statue of Jesus is displayed above the floats.
Good Friday Traditions in Spain
El Viernes Santo, Good Friday, honors the day in which Jesus was crucified. It’s traditional for people to gather in towns and cities in front of churches and cathedrals to commemorate the events that led up to the crucifixion. Often, the processions from Jueves Santo, Holy Thursday, will continue until they arrive at the church or cathedral on the morning of Good Friday.
As well as floats, there is something else which some people may find unusual about Easter Processions in Spain. As well as the marching band, banda de marcha, many people can be seen wearing a full body veil which also covers the face, los nazarenos.
Mourners are another part of the Easter Processions in Spain. Dressed in black and usually women, they wear veils and carry candles. A symbol of the death of Christ, the Mourners usually follow the floats and brotherhoods.
Spanish Easter Food and Drink
Easter is seen as a time for family in Spain and it’s a time to get together to eat and reflect.
During La Cuaresma, it’s very traditional to eat cod that is often salted and hung to dry, before being consumed. Cod is eaten in a variety of ways, such as with salsa verde or tomato sauce. A variety of sweet goods are also enjoyed during La Cuaresma, such as torrijas – sweet, sugared bread.
Monas de Pascua is a traditional Easter cake in Spain. Traditionally, the cake is shaped like a large doughnut topped with boiled eggs, however in more recent years these have often been replaced by chocolate eggs and colourful decorations (think Easter eggs!).
For the more adventurous, how about a spinach and chickpea stew, with garlic soup for starters? Yum!