Holy Week, or Semana Santa, is the week before Easter in the Christian calendar, and is celebrated in a wide variety of ways across Spain. It is particularly popular in Andalucía, where it is observed in different ways across the region.
During Holy Week in Almeria thousands of people take part in or watch the processions which the religious brotherhoods hold around the city, and many of those who carry the floats or walk behind them are dressed in Nazarene costume. The processions in Almeria resemble those of the Levante area rather than the rest of Andalucía, because they are not as old. In this area the first Christian manifestations didn't begin until the 16th century.
Some of the highlights of the week are the Gatherings of the Brotherhoods and Resurrection Sunday. Music also plays an important role, especially the Gregorian chants on Good Friday.
The oldest religious brotherhood in Almeria is La Soledad, which was founded in the 16th century and holds its procession on Good Friday. Some of the brotherhoods were not created until the 20th century, such as La Macarena, which goes out in procession on Holy Monday.
Thursday is an especially popular day, because three of the processions meet in the Plaza Emilio Pérez, and the Cristo de la Escucha procession begins at the cathedral in the early hours of the morning.
Elsewhere in the province, the processions are recommended in the towns of Cuevas de Almanzora and Huercal-Overa.
In Cadiz, Holy Week is a major festi
val and the city dresses up for the occasion. Its numerous processions pass through the Plaza de Candelaria, Calle Montañés, Plaza del Palillero, Calle Novena, Calle Ancha and Calle Compañía.
The processions include moments of silent prayer, 'saetas' sung from balconies, the sound of chains on ankles and the drums, trumpets and cornets marking the pace for those carrying the heavy floats.
Some of these processions are extremely historic, such as La Veracruz, which began in 1566 and takes place on Holy Monday. La Palma, on the same day, is one of the most popular: it starts in La Viña district. Nobody should miss the procession of El Nazareno on Thursday and El Cristo de la Buena Muerte on Friday, which takes place almost completely in the dark.
Elsewhere in Cadiz province the Easter processions are especially recommended in Alcalá del Valle, Arcos de la Frontera, Jerez de la Frontera, San Fernando, Sanlucar de Barrameda, San Roque and Setenil de las Bodegas.
The Easter processions in Cordoba are particularly atmospheric, and the air is fragrant with candle wax, incense and orange blossom. The first is on Palm Sunday, when El Rescatado begins in the Plaza Cristo de la Concordia.
Every procession through Cordoba's ancient streets is spectacular, but those of Las Ánimas and Las Angustias (one of the oldest brotherhoods) are especially recommended. The procession of Las Angustias starts and ends in Capitulares, and passes through the San Agustín district.
Other recommended places to experience Holy Week in Cordoba province are Aguilar de la Frontera, Bujalance, Cabra, Castro del Río, Hinojosa del Duque, Lucena, Montoro, Moriles, Pozoblanco, Priego de Córdoba and Puente Genil.
All the Holy Week processions in Granada are beautiful, but perhaps the most unusual and moving takes place on Wednesday, when the images of El Cristo del Consuelo and María Santísima del Sacromonte are taken out in procession, and the predominant colours are purple, red and gold.
Another is the Cristo de los Gitanos, on the Sacromonte hill, where huge bonfires are lit among the gypsy houses. Thursday night is also magical in the Albaycín district where the images of its three Virgins are carried in procession: La Concha, La Estrella and La Aurora. The procession of Cristo del Silencio whichtakes place in almost total silence, also sends shivers down the spine.
At nightfall on Good Friday another unusual event takes place at the Convento de los Jerónimos: 'Las Chías' were officials of the Inquisition and they appear dressed in costume to lead the procession of the oldest brotherhood, La Soledad de San Jerónimo.
Elsewhere in the province, the Holy Week processions are also very special in Almuñécar and Loja.