It’s the Holy Week in Spain, a time for celebration and remembrance

It’s the Holy Week in Spain, a time for celebration and remembrance Source: Oliva Tattler

Possibly the most important date in the Spanish calendar, the holy week is the celebration and remembrance of the arrest, death and resurrection of Christ.

Organised by the many brotherhoods that exist up and down the country, the holy week takes the form of penance processions and holy mass during which the life and times of Christ are remembered and celebrated. With a history that goes back 100’s of years Holy Week is today not so much one of penance but more of glory, with increasingly grandiose attempts to celebrate Christ and Christianity.

Holy Week coincides with the last week of Lent in the Catholic calendar and takes place between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.

Each day is celebrated with a combination of mass and holy prayers, and processions in which sculptures, effigies and thrones depicting Christ and Mary are carried and paraded through villages and towns.

Participants in the parades, generally known as Nazarenes or Penitents, dress in tunics and wear masks with pointy hats, a ritual that has replaced penance (self-flagellation). Participation is not limited by age either with whole families taking part.

Friday of Sorrows (Viernes de Dolores)

Generally considered as the start of Holy Week, the Friday of Sorrows in memory of the anguish and pain of the Virgin Mary. The procession tends to be mournful and will start and end at the local church, where holy mass will take place.

Passion Saturday (Sábado de Pasión)

The week prior to Palm Sunday is known as the Passion Week. Saturday is the end of Passion Week and is a time a vigil is held for Palm Sunday.

Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday)

Falling on the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.

The day is celebrated with the blessing and distribution of palm branches or the branches of other native trees, which represent the palm branches that the crowd scattered in front of Christ as he entered Jerusalem. The name “de Ramos” is given to it because in many Spanish cities a procession is celebrated on that day with the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the back of a little donkey received with praises made with branches (olive and palm tree) by the Jerusalemites and the apostles.

The Holy Days

Holy Monday commemorates the anointing of Jesus in the house of Lazarus.

Holy Tuesday remembers when Jesus tells his disciples the betrayal of Judas and the Denials of Saint Peter

Holy Wednesday is in remembrance of the day Judas Iscariot conspires with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus with thirty silver coins.

Holy Thursday reminds us of the Jesus was betrayed and remembers the Foot washing, The Last Supper, the Eucharist, the Prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and his arrest.

Good Friday (Viernes Santo)

A solemn day in the calendar with the imprisonment of Jesus, his interrogation, crowning of thorns and ultimately his crucifixion. Most brotherhoods will remember the day with a symbolic carrying of the cross up the hill past the 12 disciples.  

That day we remember the Passion of Our Lord: His prison, the interrogations of Herod and Pilate; the scourging, the crowning with thorns and the crucifixion. We commemorate it with a solemn Way of the Cross and with the ceremony of the Adoration of the Cross.

Holy Saturday (Sabdao de Gloria)

The day that passed between the death and the Resurrection of Jesus is remembered. It is a day of mourning and sadness because we do not have Jesus among us. The images are covered and the Tabernacles are open. At night an Easter Vigil is held to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. Vigil means “the evening and night before a party.” In this celebration it is customary to bless the water and light the candles as a sign of the Resurrection of Christ, the great feast of Catholics.

Resurrection Sunday (Domingo de Resurrección)

It is the most important and joyous day for all Catholics, since Jesus defeated death and gave us life. This means that Christ gives us the opportunity to save ourselves, to enter Heaven and always live happily in the company of God. Easter is the passage from death to life. The day begins with mass followed by a coming together of all the brotherhoods to celebrate the life of Christ and to remember the coming together of Mary and Jesus.

The Holy Week is always a special time in Spain, a time when the life and death of Jesus is remembered and celebrated. A week for the family, that is filled with music, prayer and love.

Public holidays

Please remember that with these being religious holidays stores will be closed on Thursday and Friday. In some areas stores will also be closed on Monday, you can get full details of all public holidays in Spain here.


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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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