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The Spectacle of Semana Santa

A Catholic Celebration in Malaga

UNITED KINGDOM | Saturday, 26 April 2014 | Views [71] | Scholarship Entry

Religious festivals in Spain are an intriguing melting pot of solemn old world Catholic tradition and the buzz of a modern day crowd of spectators, that creates an experience you’re not likely to forget. Semana Santa is no exception. During holy week, the cities of Spain bubble with an undercurrent of excitement that’s palpable even to the casual visitor. Some cofradías or brotherhoods, have been preparing for the processions all year and when the day finally arrives the mounting excitement is contagious! Several processions happen all over the city at different times of the day. It’s possible to turn the corner into an inconspicuous street and be greeted with small boys blasting trumpets, men with huge ceremonial candles and the artistic masterpiece of the sculptures. The effect is heart stopping to say the least. My first glimpse of a street procession was less jarring but the anticipation leading up to it was incredible. Amongst the throngs of people, small children were pushed to the front with fist sized balls of wax, it’s tradition to collect drops of wax from the candles of the penitents. Gradually, the rhythmic drum beat carried up the street and with it, my first image of a procession. Vivid purple robes, (although the colours vary between brotherhoods), all staggering in perfect time with each other and bearing the weight of a colossal, intricately ornate sculpture of Christ. It’s a powerful image that will always be tied to my memories of Malaga. The scenes on the sculpture are from episodes of the crucifixion or images of The Virgin Mary but all are stunning in burnished gold with flashes of red or blue. Although at first I was taken aback by the faceless figures, occasionally they would break character and wave or call to a friend in the crowd, or hand out a sweet to a child on the front row. This certainly took away some of their edge. As the procession edges past slowly and carefully, some make the sign of the cross or say a prayer and the accompanying brass band play their characteristic, yet slightly peculiar music. Whilst watching some of the figures process past, I happened to glance at their feet; astoundingly some walk barefoot if they feel the need to show extra repentance! Once the group had passed, I checked my Semana Santa timetable, (a helpful modern addition) to see where I could catch the next display. In total I managed to see around 7 different processions across the city, some larger than others but all equally remarkable.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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