Semana Santa, or Holy Week is one of the most important holidays of the Christian Spain, which attracts thousands of tourists from around the world turning a peaceful town into the great mystery, and the narrow streets filled with crowds of onlookers standing and waiting for the procession. It is also one of the most exciting events in the year to which year-long preparations are starting already at the end of Easter. The most pompusly and the most spectacularly is celebrated in Andalusia, especially in Malaga.
Parades are organized by the brotherhood - hermandades or cofradias penitenciales which mean associations (community) centered around a specific parish, from where the platforms (called the thrones) are carried. Amongs many there is a throne of the Virgin Mary crying, and scenes from the New Testament related to the Passion of Christ. Each brotherhood has its own characteristic color of the robes and takes part in the specific day of Holy Week, marching surrounding the throne, which can easily weigh from several hundred pounds to even a few tons. The figures located on the thrones are surrounded by hundreds of flowers and candlelights, often covered with canopy, which in itself are priceless work of religious art of the Middle Ages. They are being lifted by more than two hundred men (hombres de trono), so-called "costaleros". The procession starts and ends with orchestra playing solemn music, often written specially for the occasion, thus the procession simply can not be missed. Dozens of trumpets and drums can be heard from a far distance, long before the orchestra appear on the horizon, associated with the hooded penitents reminding Ku Klux Klan. They are called nazarenos.
They arouse curiosity of numerous onlookers, being dressed from head to toe in colorful robes topped with stiff hood, which reminds everyone the times of the Inquisition. Every Nazareno has its place in the procession and its formation. They serve different roles e.g holding in their hands blessed candles or carrying various items belonging to the fraternity like insignia or books. Processions start on Palm Sunday, where the first goes the throne with Jesus on a donkey, while the last one is of the Risen Jesus accompanied by nazarenos from each fraternity.
Why the tradition and what was the beginning?
When in 1487 the Catholic Kings - Isabella and Ferdinand - rescued Malaga from the hands of the Moors, numerous monasteries and religious brotherhoods were founded. They took care to bury the dead and took care for the sick; later on started performing Passion, using movable wooden figures. One of them is Jesus blessing the people - still carried in procession.
Semana Santa in Malaga is an incredibly intense week filled with the smell of burnt incense, pounding drums and intricate experiences. For residents sometimes happens to be tiring, as a few hours processions are also held throughout the night, and access to the apartment sometimes is almost impossible, as each side streets are blocked by crowds of onlookers and parades. However, despite of all, this is a time of incredible experiences, which put everyone into a time of Holy Week and events related to this.
However, to call Semana Santa - fanaticism, excessive celebration or a waste of money in a time of crisis, this is a unique week and tradition worth preserving, as one says, not to see Semana Santa in Spain at least once, it's like not to see the Pope at the Vatican ;)