Among one of the many benefits of studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain during the spring semester is the opportunity to participate in two of the city’s major holidays: Semana Santa and Feria.
Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a Spanish celebration of the week preceding Easter. The religious holiday commemorates the Passion of Christ, beginning with Palm Sunday, or Domingo de Ramos, and ending on Easter Sunday, or La Pascua. Lucky for me, It’s most seriously celebrated in the region of Andalusia, Spain.
How is it celebrated? First you should understand religious brotherhoods, or Hermandades. Hermandades are primarily based on tradition and composed of various Catholic families; however, membership is open to any Catholic. There are over 60 hermandades in Sevilla alone. During Semana Santa these brotherhoods perform penance processions throughout the streets of Sevilla.
What does it look like?
This specific procession was carried out by the hermandad “La Virgen de la O.”
During processions, each brotherhood carries its own unique paso, or religious float, that depicts a gospel scene related to the Passion of Christ or the Sorrows of the Virgin Mary. The top three images show La O’s paso depicting the Virgin Mary. The pasos are absolutely beautiful- adorned from top to bottom with candles, flowers and gold or silver platings. The bottom left images show hermanos of La O wearing traditional nazarenos, or penitential robes. The processions are also usually accompanied by marching bands that perform compositions devoted to their respective brotherhoods and pasos (As pictured in the bottom right image).
Here’s a quick video clip of La O’s procession:
What is it? Feria de Abril, or The April Fair, is exactly what it sounds like… except a bit more cultural. Yes, there are fairgrounds with countless food stands and overpriced amusement park rides, but there’s more to Feria than it’s fair-like attractions… It’s a cultural tradition in which Sevillians pride themselves on.
The fair takes place two weeks after Semana Santa and lasts for six days. It officially commences on Monday at midnight with the alumbrao- the lighting of the giant entryway to the fairgrounds. When the portada is fully illuminated the festivities begin!
What do you do? The fairgrounds are separated into two main parts: 1. “La Calle del Infierno” which is the area used for the theme park and food stands. 2. “El Real de Feria” which consists of 24 blocks lined with over 1,000 casetas— private tent pavilions belonging to eminent local families, businesses, political parties, and various organizations. Casetas are where the culture comes to life. Each one is it’s own party- equipped with a bar, kitchen and some form of entertainment (usually Sevillana music and dancing). Sevillians spend night and day socializing, dancing, eating and drinking rebujitos (traditional Feria beverage). Most casetas are open from early afternoon to early morning!
Here’s a short video clip of a traditional Sevillana dance:
What to wear? Sevillanos are decked out in traditional dress. For women this means traje de gitano- traditional flamenco dresses complete with coordinating accessories (flowers, tasseled shawls, combs, and earrings). For men it means a nice suit unless you are on horseback… then you wear the traditional traje corto- fitted pants, a short-cut jacket, and a wide-brimmed hat.
Luckily, my madre Rosa makes and sells her own tasseled shawls, or montones. She let my roommate Carrie and I borrow some of her extras and we accessorized with earrings and flowers in our hair. Not completely in traditional flamenco dress, but hey, we tried!
I’m so thankful for the opportunity to have seen and participated in both of these events! They allowed me to experience beautiful aspects of the sevillano culture which furthered my appreciation for it. I am truly in love with this city!