Those of us who are from countries like Ireland or the UK, know Easter as more of a chocolate celebration, which don’t get me wrong, I love my chocolate, but is this really what it’s meant to be about? However here in the communities of Catalonia and Valencia, as in the rest of Spain, the festivals and processions during Easter Week are poignant, striking and very much in tune with what Easter is religiously about.
The feeling of emotion during the Easter Week processions is intense, as are the colours of the flowers. The beating of the drums adds to the very moving atmosphere.
The processions are deep rooted religious manifestations, which have such a strong energy, that you may feel both moved and surprised. Easter Week is full of colour and emotion.
Spain is devoutly Catholic, as a country, however the fervour of the people may have been strengthened by the fact that during Franco’s time many elements of their traditional culture had been banned. Languages that were not Castellaño (commonly referred to as Spanish) were banned or at least frowned upon. One example of this in 1968 Joan Manuel Serrat wanted to sing in Catalan, but wasn’t allowed. His replacement, Massiel, sang in Spanish and actually went on to win the Eurovision. Catalans and Basques could not name their newborns in their own language. Festivals were also banned during Franco’s regime, which does partly explain the great passion for the numerous religious and traditional cultural festivals that the people have, since so many were revived from the 1980s on.
The Decline And Re-Birth Of Easter Week Processions Catalonia
So in addition to considering the effect of the Franco regime, also after Vatican II, these processions were hardly held at all and had almost died out. However in the 1980s there was a big revival of Easter Week processions, and numerous other festivals and carnivals.
The re-birth of Easter Week festivals also brought with it some newer elements that came from other parts of Spain, to Catalonia and the Valencian Community, because of immigrants. Today the processions feature the Passion, as well as the death and resurrection of Christ. The events during Holy Week include processions as well as theatrical performances.
There are parades of passages and mysteries, plus here in these communities you will see the armed soldiers (armats) who wear long tunics to their feet. The armats are the men who dress up as Roman soldiers during Easter Week. So although the procession almost died out, their re-birth and massive importance to the people mean that they are enjoyed through the kinship and spirit the invoke locally, as well as by many visitors who come specially to experience these glorious Easter Week Festivals.
A Few Highlights…But All Villages And Towns Will Give You A Memorable Experience
Processó del Silenci de Badalona – The Procession of Silence Badalona
The procession begins when it is dark, around 10pm or so. There is singing of the Passion at the church of Santa Maria and then there are ceremonial steps which lead to a tour of the streets. During the street tour the only light is candlelight and small fires which have been lit along the route. There is silence, which is eventually broken by the singing of a traditional song. This procession is also called the Processó dels Misteris – Procession of Mysteries.
Dansa Macabra de Verges – Macabre Dance of Verges – Girona
This is one of the most original and oldest among the celebrations of Easter, which was revived from an ancient medieval tradition which used to be present throughout Europe – the traditions of the Dances of Death.
The Dansa Macabra de Verges is one of the most important examples alive today of traditional Catalan theatre. You will see gloomy skeletons jumping and other dance members who are dressed in black robes, who move along to the sound of the drums,. You will see scythes and ashes to remind us of our own final hour. It has been declared a traditional festival of National Interest.