By SEMANASANTACALLOSADESEGURA (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By SEMANASANTACALLOSADESEGURA (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is one of Spain’s most breathtaking celebrations, and southern Spain is undoubtedly the best region in which to experience it. The greatest and most impressive daily processions of the week leading up to Easter are to be seen in Sevilla, but Málaga can rightfully claim its place as a city that puts on exceptional processions. There is an air of jubilance about the Easter celebrations in Andalucía, whereas in the rest of Spain they can be a more solemn affair. It almost seems as if the Easter story and the joys of spring are united in this part of the world.   When is Semana Santa? The dates for Easter change every year. The Roman Emperor Constantine decided at the Council of Nicaea in 325AD that the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere would be Easter Sunday, which is why Easter can never take place before 22 March or after 25 April. In 2017, Semana Santa starts on 9 April and finishes on 15 April, and visitors to Málaga for example, will find that every available hotel room in town is booked up throughout the week.   Semana Santa traditions Semana Santa is a religious occasion but the Spanish celebration of it is intensely theatrical. Thousands turn out to watch the processions that typically include two major floats representing the Virgin and Christ’s Passion. These floats are carried by small battalions of men called costaleros, who literally shoulder the immense weight whilst drums beat out the pace of their movement. The floats are followed by nazarenos, or penitents, many of whom walk the streets barefoot for hours on end, their identities hidden under peaked hoods and robes.   Semana Santa in Málaga Málaga has been celebrating Semana Santa for 500 years, but in 1980 its processions were declared of International Tourist interest due to its blend of religious, social and cultural traditions. In Málaga, flamenco culture plays a central role in the processions, particularly when a lone flamenco singer encants a song of repentance, called the saeta, in front of the float carrying Christ. Other memorable occasions include the landing of the troops of the Legion at Málaga’s port, and many say it is a special experience to witness the parade of these troops accompanying their Cristo de la Buena Muerte, while singing the anthem of El novio de la muerte with unbridled passion.   If you are going to Málaga for Semana Santa, the daily processional route starts at the Alameda Principal and continues to the Rotonda del Marqués de Larios and part of Calle Granada, marking the commencement of an experience not to be had anywhere else in Europe.