What Is La Semana Santa?

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If you’ve ever wondered what is La Semana Santa? Wonder no more. We have all the answers.

La Semana Santa is the Spanish version of the Easter holidays, only rather than celebrating with bunny rabbits and chocolate egg hunts, Spain very much sticks to the traditional religious origin of the holiday.

It is a one-week festivity that celebrates the Holy Week of the Catholic Church, and it is considered to be the most important time of year, with it being celebrated all throughout the country.

The one-week festivity is all about the Passion of Jesus Christ, which encompasses the last days of life, the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Jesus.

And as it is the basis of faith within Catholic religion, it is easy to understand why so much emphasis is placed upon this holiday, and why it is so traditionally important!

During this week, thousands and thousands of people flood the streets of every city in Spain, partaking in processions, marching bands, and religious rituals.

It is the most somber holiday of the year, and it is common to find ladies weeping, with the heaviness of death hanging around the detailed statues of Jesus upon the cross.

But it is also one of the most captivating celebrations held in Spain, and there is something deeply moving and beautiful about the tradition of it.

What happens during the Semana Santa?

Okay, so what happens during Semana Santa exactly? There are a lot of traditions, a lot of events, and different days of importance that you need to know about.

First of all, we will run you through every single day of the week, and what it means:

Domingo de Ramos

Palm Sunday, this is the day that always kicks off the Semana Santa week, so it will always begin on a Sunday.

On this day, people celebrate the arrival of Jesus to Jerusalem. He entered the city mounted upon a donkey, and he was received by a multitude of people, who welcomed him by laying palm branches down on the ground for him.

It is traditional, on this day, for people to attend a special mass in church. After the mass, people leave the Church and begin a procession, with everybody carrying a palm branch, or an olive branch, which are then blessed by the priest.

(Fun Fact: these blessed branches of palm are traditionally kept in the home, for protection, and are then burned to create the ash used on Ash Wednesday, at the beginning of next Easter!)

Lunes Santo

Holy Monday, also known as the Monday of authority, celebrates the day in which Jesus showed his power over people and nature. There are special mass celebrations that read the passages from the Bible.

Other than that, this is a normal day.

Martes Santo

Holy Tuesday, also known as the Tuesday of controversy, celebrates the day in which Jesus confronted the religious leaders of his time. There are special mass celebrations that read the passages from the Bible.

Other than that, this is a normal day.

Miercoles Santo

Holy Wednesday, is the day that marks the end of the period of lent within the Catholic calendar. It is also a day of preparation, as the next three days are known as the Paschal Triduum.

Other than that, this is a normal day.

Jueves Santo

Holy Thursday, is the first day of the Paschal Triduum. On this day, people celebrate the last supper of Jesus and his disciples. There is a special mass in which priests recreate the last supper, and the washing of the feet.

It is also a day in which priests renew their vows, and in which water and oil is blessed for baptisms, anointing of the sick, and priestly ordinations.

Viernes Santo

Holy Friday is the most somber day of the week, as it commemorates the torture, crucifixion, and death of Jesus Christ. This is an incredibly sacred day, and not even mass is performed.

People are urged to stay somber and in mourning, and processions take place all throughout the cities. Traditionally. The consumption of meat is banned on this day.

During the evening, priests go through the 14 stages of the Via Crucis, which are the 14 parts in which the entire process of Jesus’ crucifixion is divided into. The priest will lead the people through each one, detailing what happened, with praying in between each one.

Sabado de Gloria

Saturday of Glory, this is the third day of the Paschal Triduum. It is a day of mourning, in which Jesus’ body is within the Holy Sepulchre. During this day there is no mass, and no processions. People work as normal, but are expected to remain somber and respectful.

During the evening, at 6pm, the Easter Vigil begins, and continues all through the night until Sunday at dawn. This is one of the most important Catholic rituals of the year.

Domingo de Resurrección

Sunday of Resurrection, this is the main and most important day of the Semana Santa week. It is the day in which Jesus resurrected from the dead, after the third day, and it is a time of rejoicing and faith.

It is also commonly known as Easter Sunday. On this day, there is a big mass celebration, which at the end finalizes the Holy Week, and it is also traditional for families to get together and have an Easter meal.

(Fun Fact: nowadays, it is traditional to have a big chocolate cake or chocolate statue as dessert on Easter Sunday, which is similar to chocolate eggs!)

Throughout the entire week of Semana Santa (except for specific days), processions are held throughout the cities of Spain.

These are all organized by the many different fraternities and brotherhoods, belonging to the many different churches and Catholic communities.

Volunteers from these fraternities will take part in these processions, which are usually also accompanied by a marching band, drums echoing through the streets of the city for hours on end. It truly is a chilling experience!

But the sound of drums and other instruments isn’t the only impressive thing about these processions. Each fraternity and brotherhood will bring out massive floats, upon which big religious statues are displayed.

Some of Mary weeping, some of Jesus upon the cross, and many more.

These are incredibly heavy, and it takes a large group of volunteers to carry them upon their shoulders.

But despite the weight, these processions will last hours, and they will carry the statues as a sign of penance, throughout the streets of the city, with spectators following behind them.

As part of the procession, members of the fraternity or brotherhood will accompany the big floaters, walking beside them, before them, and behind. These people are known as the “nazarenos”, and they will carry candles, torches, wooden crosses or more.

They wear traditional robes, with conical hoods which completely hide their faces. They can be an extremely haunting sight, especially accompanied by the praying and echoing of the drums!

However, nowadays it is also customary for nazarenos to hand out sweets to spectating children! A way to sweeten the sight!


If you want to experience Semana Santa at its height, we recommend you go to Andalucía, in the south of Spain. This is where the Holy Week is lived with the most passion, as Catholic tradition remains at its strongest.

Andalucía is home to the biggest and most impressive processions, which are often accompanied by weeping women.

But beware, some processions can get incredibly dark, with some of them featuring people that walk barefooted, while they whip themselves to show penance.


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