Spain is a country with deep religious traditions, dated from centuries ago. These traditions are reflected in several celebrations during several dates year round. Easter is a one of the most important holidays, especially for people that celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on that day. In Madrid, during the Easter holiday season , or “Semana Santa” in Spanish, there are a lot of events, places to go, and things to do.
Unlike other celebrations in Spain, Easter is not a time for outlandish celebrations. Instead, it is a time for people to ask God to forgive them of their sins and do their penance. During this time, there is a many colorful processions.
There are groups of men that bear the weight of large stretcher-type constructions, that have models or sculptures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ on top of them. These constructions are not lightweight at all, men carry them for long periods of time in silence and with a swaying motion. The only noise in the background is a drum that is banged slowly. During the Semana Santa parades, there will be groups of people that are dressed in black or pointed hoods. The hats are made to resemble the hats that were given to the “guilty” during the Spanish Inquisition. Going to church and other religious observations also take place during Easter week.
During the Holy Week, a lot of Catholic people go to church. Along with wearing the previously mentioned people wearing black or pointed hoods, people also wear capirotes which are robes that are usually black, purple, or red which is a symbol of penitence. The hoods can also red or white if a person chooses. Also, during the Holy Week processions, a lot of religious icons are taking out of their resting place, are beautifully decorated, and are often surrounded by candles and flowers. They are lifted up high on platforms and very carefully paraded around the streets for everyone to see and are often followed by marching bands.
The first Holy Week procession is on Palm Sunday, with other main processions taking place on Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, with the end of the processions on Easter Sunday.
There are a lot of brass bands and drum bands that accompany a lot of the icons and on Easter Sunday in Madrid’s huge Plaza Mayor square there is a drum parade called Tamborrado where roughly twenty drums or so are beaten in a constant rhythm. When people are not taking part in the religious ceremonies, there is a lot to do.
Some of the most iconic processions of Holy Week are the Cristo de la Fé y del Perdón, on Palm Sunday, the Jesús del Gran Poder and Virgin Maria Santísima de la Esperanza, on Maudy Thrusday, or the Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno of Cristo de Medinaceli’s Basilica on Good Friday.
Holy Week is a good season to discover one of the most authentic Spanish traditions in Madrid, that allows travelers to visit also all of the historical sites like the plazas, palaces, wax museum, botanical garden, Retiro park, and some of the most important museums worldwide, like the Prado, Reina Sofia or Thyssen.
There are also over two-hundred churches in Madrid and it has its own cathedral, Almudena, near the Royal Palace. There is also a lot of shopping centers to visit that sell almost everything a person could want. It’s complemented by a varied gastronomy (check out our Torrijas tasting event within TANDEM Cultural Program) and an intense nightlife.
It’s true that Madrid uses to be very crowded during Holy Week, and it’s not easy to find accommodation at a good price. However, with all of the religious ceremonies, historical places to visit, shopping to enjoy, parties to be a part of, and nightlife to participate in, Easter in Madrid can be extraordinary.
This article is also available in French.