So as we approach our lovely long Easter weekend full of chocolate, hot cross buns and roast lamb, what are the Spanish up to? Well, in Spain when it comes to religious festivals they certainly pull out all the stops, with Easter being the biggest celebration of all in a country which still embraces its faith across the generations.
For the most spectacular of celebrations, look no further than Andalucia, and Sevilla in particular, where thousands of people flock to the city and line the streets to witness the elaborate processions that pass through the streets of the city. The celebrations started here last Sunday and continue throughout the week, finishing this Sunday (Domingo de Resurección), and are a time for them to take to the streets with family and friends to watch the processions, remember the sacrifices of Christ and then finally celebrate his resurrection, with plenty music, singing and eating thrown in of course! Having experienced this amazing spectacle myself, I can tell you that the atmosphere is electric and incredibly moving, whether you are religious or not, it is definitely one worth making a trip to the beautiful city of Sevilla for!
There are over 60 religious brotherhoods in the city (cofradías), who each organise a procession, with members carrying very heavily adorned floats (pasos) holding religious statues, flowers and candles from their church to the city’s cathedral, many of which have been preserved for hundreds of years. These are carried by members (nazarenos), often barefooted and chained as Christ would have been, who can end the procession with blistered, bleeding feet and shoulders, as a form of penance, quite extreme! They are joined by other nazarenos who, wearing the traditional rather somber looking pointed hats (capirotes, designed to hide the face of the sinners and not connected in any way to the very similar looking outfits of the Ku Klux Klan), often carry large heavy wooden crosses on their backs.
As the floats pass through the streets, they are accompanied by marching bands, and people watching from balconies spontaneously perform saetas, traditional flamenco style religious songs. Have a watch and listen to a traditional saeta and procession in the city by clicking here!
So as 2015 draws to a close this evening, how will the Spanish be celebrating the start of a new year at midnight? With the ‘Uvas de la Suerte’ (the lucky grapes) of course! A tradition that started in the early 1900’s, eating a grape with each strike of the bell at midnight, one to represent each month of the new year, is believed to bring luck and prosperity as well as a chance to make a ‘deseo’ (wish) for the new year to come. In Madrid revellers gather in the Puerta del Sol before the countdown begins ready to eat their twelve grapes to the chimes of the famous clock, watched on the television by families celebrating together at home and in squares across the country.
So instead of singing Old Lang Syne this year, why not get your twelve grapes at the ready and join the Spaniards by eating them with the chimes of Big Ben, and bring yourself some ‘buena suerte’ (good luck) for the new year to come!
So our Halloween celebrations might be over, but in Mexico and other parts of South America, they have only just begun celebrating what is possibly their most important holiday celebration today and tomorrow, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)!
Sounding somewhat sombre and morbid to us, Día de los Muertos is anything but. Families get together to celebrate the lives of those who have passed away, by decorating graves with flowers and candles, then gathering to drink, eat play music and tell stories to remember them, such a lovely idea!
Mexicans believe that the souls of their loved ones come to visit and join in the celebrations, which can take place at home, in street parties or parades, and even in graveyards themselves which are bright and colourful at this time, and have musicians passing through them hired by the families to play the favourite songs of the dead.
The most recognised symbols of this Mexican tradition are the brightly decorated sugar skulls, created by skilled sugar crafters, and purchased by the families to decorate the graves. Here the UK Liverpool has been having its own Día de los Muertos celebration this weekend, trying to break a world record for the most number of people wearing Catrines, the Mexican skull facemasks, as part of their Festival ‘Vamos’, which is celebrating all things Latin American!