Holy Week, Semana Santa, in Andalucia is an event that literally transforms towns and cities across this region. Processions of elaborately decorated floats with Jesus and Mary statues, groups of pointy-hood wearing Nazarenos (penitents), and shrill brass bands, walk slowly through the streets, from their parish church to the cathedral and back. It is an amazing experience, and a great time to come to Andalucia if you want to imbibe some deeply-held traditions.
Holy week processions throughout Andalucia may differ according to the traditions of each city or town. However, there is a general order to most, starting with a large cross, cruz de guía, that is followed by a group of participants bearing lanterns. The rest follow these leaders and are known as penitentes and nazarenos. The centre of attention, however, is the floats - usually two - with their respective images of Christ and the Virgin Mary. These massive, heavy floats are carried on the shoulders, or necks, of numerous members of the religious associations that care for them throughout the year. It is a particular honour to carry the floats and some will even do so barefoot. as a sign of extreme penitence
To the outsider all of these floats might look fairly similar. To the insider, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Each image of Christ and Mary is totally unique and has a special name that points to the legend surrounding that particular version of the figure.
We had friends visiting this week and after a lovely meal on the beach we found ourselves back in our village and the procession to mark Good Friday or the "walk of the loneliness" was in full swing. As with all such occasions in Spain it did not begin until way after 10.00 p.m.
As sombre occasion full of sadness and symbolism.
Today Easter Sunday, a very different mood
Everyone was celebrating. From young to elderly. Dressed up to enjoy Easter Sunday.
A band heralds the start of the procession.
St Francis,the Patron Saint of our village finds the empty tomb and runs to tell Mary that Jesus has gone.
It is unusual for the very heavy floats to be "run" though the streets but that is the tradition in our village and it is amazing to watch.
Three times St. Francis runs to the tomb and back to Mary who then is also carried to see.
Mary is carried mainly by young women who seem as sure footed as the men.
The little children of the village run behind enjoying all the excitement and looking forward to the time they will be big enough to have the honour of carrying the floats.
Then St Francis and Mary set off in search of Jesus and when they find him the real celebrations begin. Fireworks. Music and so much clapping.
So Easter in a Catholic country - very different,very beautiful and very moving and as we walked away we did feel very lucky to have witnessed a different way of celebrating Easter.