Feliz Pascua – Happy Easter!
(This post may be a tad late, but things were rather hectic around here this week. I know you’ll forgive me)
Samana Santa (Easter Holy Week) in the Spanish town of Alhaurin el Grande almost defies description. It has absolutely been the loudest, at times, the most confusing, and possibly one of the most fascinating parts of our winter.
We travel to observe different cultures and ways of life. We do this from our own perspectives. Being open to and respectful of others´ customs is important, and we each have our backgrounds and biases. In trying to understand what the heck was happening, I asked people in both English and Spanish. There were plenty of different explanations. Claire, of Tomatoes on Toast Blog, gives a fantastic, succinct explanation from the perspective of an English woman living in Cordoba since 2011. Please check out her post; she’ll explain a lot of this to you.
The processionals ran from Wednesday to Sunday, and we saw as much of them as we could (I even attended most of a church service – not something I say everyday). Here are the highlights, along with a bit of commentary.
Preparations for the processionals were amazing. Stages in two squares were changed for each day’s reenactment. People and businesses lined the streets along the processional route with chairs, saving space for viewing.
Finally, the first processional leaves Santa Vera Cruz Church (or, as we’ve come to know it, the green church) on Wednesday. Each of the two churches played specific roles during the week, performing specific reenactments, carrying the pasos (the huge platforms with Jesus or Mary on top), and performing the role of Nazarenos (penitents dressed in robes with pointy hoods).
A number of different pasos are carried through the narrow, winding streets during Samana Santa. When not on procession, they can be found on display in the churches where worshippers can view them up close, offer prayers, and, of course, pose for pictures.
Along the route, a bell is rung and those carrying the pasos stop and let the massive burden rest on supports. This provides the crowd a better view, but also gives the men a bit of relief. At one point, one looked at me with a sort of pained grin and shrugged his shoulder as if to say, “Yeah, this is really stinkin’ heavy.”
Each day, different scenes from the Passion of Christ are depicted with local members of the community in character for hours at a time, first with the reenactments, then during the processionals which can last until midnight. What was amazing was the number of very young children taking part day after day (and night).
Even though there was absolutely a solemn mood, these little girls weren’t the only ones chatting along the way. From time to time, a mom would step out from the crowd to adjust a costume, or a participant would slip into one of the open doors along the route (let’s face it, potty breaks would be crucial during the hours-long processionals).
I never was able to determine the role of these women (important members of the church, perhaps?). What I do know for sure is that I could never walk up and down the hilly streets of the town for four or five hours in shoes like these.
I know how you feel, little man. The marching bands with bugles and drums almost made my ears bleed. Not only are they extremely loud and within arm’s reach, narrow streets lined by two-story buildings of tile, stucco, and brick create a deafening echo chamber.
I’m not sure what surprised me the most at the Easter Sunday service: the relatively few people in attendance, the fact that I was there at all, or the outfits worn by the female members of the choir. Compared to the thousands lining the streets to watch the theatrics of the processionals, the church service was a very quiet affair.
Observing Samana Santa in an Andalucian town was, surely, a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s really difficult to explain what it was like. It’s one of those things you have to experience first hand in order to appreciate. I would even go so far as to say that this is part of truly experiencing Spain.
As an aside, we are finished our stint of house sitting for now. We’ve been at it for four and a half months. We are now officially going on holiday. Yes, NOW, we are on holidays. We are going to pack our bags, grab a rental car, cruise around for a bit. We’ll still be walking and exploring, but we won’t have any hairy companions or commitments.
Wifi and time may be an issue, so I’m not sure how much I’ll post while we’re gone. This is all new to me, so we’ll see how it rolls. We’ll be back home mid-April, and I’ll be in touch then, for sure.
Hasta luego, amigos!