This past week was an extremely special week in Spain- Semana Santa, or Holy Week. It is one of the most important holidays in the country, and is a whole week full of Easter celebrations, processions, and more. The week culminates in Easter Sunday services, which coincide with the day of Easter that I’m used to celebrating in the United States. Although I’ve seen a good bit of Easter candy lining the racks of grocery stores, it doesn’t seem to just be all about the egg hunts, baskets, and bunnies here in Spain. Spain has a large Catholic population, so religious celebrations are very central to the week. One of my British friends put it this way: “It’s so different here in Spain, this week has so much beautiful meaning! In the U.K. we just have a lot of chocolate and daffodils and things…”
According to our program director Jaime, some of the biggest Semana Santa activities happen in the south of Spain. As you probably know, our group is way up north in the Asturian mountains. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of processions and celebrations in Oviedo and surrounding towns during Semana Santa!
I unfortunately didn’t get any very up close experiences with celebrations this week, because it was also the beginning of our Semana Santa spring break. Monday through Wednesday we were all hard at work finishing up papers and exams, and on Thursday and Friday, the adventures began for the students in our program. Students in our Temple group are doing some amazing things– many are traveling in groups together, and from what I’ve heard, Temple will be covering ground all the way from Morocco to Rome to Budapest this week (and tons of places in between!).
I actually stuck around in Oviedo until Friday evening, using the time to pack and prepare for my upcoming spring break trip. While others were already off eating pizza in Rome and crepes in Paris, I had the benefit of getting a little look into the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday traditions in Oviedo. For example, on Thursday my host mom was busy at a rehearsal, and on Friday she sang at her church’s Good Friday service. There was also a procession scheduled in the streets in which teams of people would carry massively heavy and beautiful shrines. Some of us had seen these teams practicing earlier on in the week, and Jaime explained that it takes extreme coordination and communication for people to pull off such a feat. Apparently these metal shrines can weigh hundreds of pounds! I planned to go check out the procession on Friday, but it was unfortunately cancelled due to rain.
A few students in the group chose to go south to experience some of the Semana Santa traditions there, and I can’t wait to hear their stories and see their pictures when they return. As for me, I chose to escape the rain in Oviedo for the week and head for the sun and the sea…
Temple really is everywhere- this weekend I was able to meet up in the Southern French city of Marseille with a few girls who have graduated and are now teaching English in France and Spain. It was amazing to reconnect with old Temple friends and to hear about other ways to spend time working with language abroad! I think they’ve convinced me to apply for some English abroad teaching positions once I graduate…
After a weekend of sea breeze, French food, and sight seeing, I am off to the next leg of my journey- the Mediterranean island of Malta (for more sea breeze, delicious food, and sight seeing, I hope!).
Til next week! I’ll be sure to post an update on the travels that ensue 🙂