Easter en España
Easter bunnies versus KKK-like hooded figures? Dyeing eggs versus praising heavy, gold virgins in the streets at 4am? The U.S. and Spain may celebrate the same holiday, with the same historical and religious origin, but American Easter and Spanish Semana Santa couldn’t look any less alike.
Last week was one of the most important celebrations in Spain, particularly in Sevilla, Semana Santa, or Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter. While I took off to Istanbul for the majority of the holiday (more on that fabulous trip later!), I still got to partake in my fair share of both Semana Santa and Easter celebrations, embracing the two very different traditions.
One of my favorite tasks as an auxiliar de conversación this year has been preparing PowerPoint presentations for each major holiday, explaining to my students how Americans celebrate, with lots of previously-taken-for-granted details and “¡Ooh qué chulo!”-inducing photos. I’m a huge fan of holidays and being festive, plus it’s always great reminiscing about happy holiday times back home and sharing my culture with students. So I was excited to present American Easter to my students, as well as to engage my private classes in Easter activities and distribute Easter stickers (thanks Mom!) to my little ones.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the difference in elementary school Easter decorations adorning the walls in America and Spain: cute, colorful, little bunnies, chicks, eggs, and flowers there, cute Ku Klux Klan men and mini Jesuses here. Okay, here I should stop to explain that an important part of Spanish Semana Santa are the nazarenos, the hooded procession marchers. Catholics have been using the outfits in their Holy Week celebrations for who knows how many hundreds of years before the KKK adopted them, but, as aware as I am of the outfit’s meaning, I still can’t but instinctively react to the nazarenos’ appearance.
Upon returning from Istanbul, Semana Santa was in full bloom in Sevilla, somewhat annoyingly, since it meant heaving to circumvent crowds and barriers just to get home. But that night was the renowned Madrugá, the processions on the dawn of Good Friday. Lucky me, they were going right by my house. Nazarenos and brass bands marched past, followed by big floats depicting a religious scene or a virgin. One of those was La Vírgen de la Macarena, a statue that Sevillanos worship hardcore, keeping her picture in their wallet, going crazy seeing her during Semana Santa, etc. Spain’s reverence of virgin statues is one thing I’ll never quite understand, but she was quite beautiful, surrounded by hundreds of candles.
After watching La Madrugá, Semana Santa went back to being mostly an annoyance to me, with giant crowds blocking me from grocery store runs or meetings with friends, and ear-shattering bands waking me up at 6am on Sunday. It is quite an awe-inspiring event, although I had seen it in Sevilla before two years ago, and one night of seeing it this year was sufficient.
On Easter Sunday, my friends (three Americans and one Spaniard) and I celebrated Easter the American way, donning our Easter best, having an Easter brunch, decorating one friend’s apartment, and then dying three dozen Easter eggs. Easter’s never been one of my favorite holidays, but I do love all holidays, so I had a great time.
If you celebrate, how was your Easter or Semana Santa? What are your favorite traditions? Hope you all had a great holiday!