Hail Holy Week: Easter celebrations in full swing

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FROM Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, thrones bearing lifelike effigies of Christ and the Virgin Mary are carried through towns and cities the length and breadth of Spain.

Semana Santa represents the journey that Jesus took from his arrival in Jerusalem to his death and resurrection.

Spain is internationally acclaimed for its Easter celebrations and Semana Santa is a big deal in the yearly event calendar.

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Entire cities come to a standstill as grand processions make their way through the streets, men and women bearing floats upon which stand depictions of stories from the gospel.

In some cases, these floats have been preserved for centuries in their original condition. The history surrounding the celebration is tangible.

The origins of Semana Santa in Spain lie all the way back in the early 1500s and the celebrations we see today are the result of centuries of evolution.

For example, it wasn’t until the 17th century that the ‘cofradias,’ or brotherhoods, began to divide and organise themselves into the factions which are now essential to celebrations.

For spectators who expect every Spanish celebration to be a flamboyant fiesta, the first experience of a Semana Santa parade can be a little daunting.

Depending on where you are in Spain, the celebrations can differ in both piety and vibrancy. Across Andalucia, the week is a jubilant celebration of religion, with incredibly detailed and elaborate floats held up by different church brotherhoods. These men and women are so in sync with one another that the effigies they carry look eerily lifelike.

The further north you travel, the more solemn and sombre the tradition becomes. Compared with the festival atmosphere in the south, some would describe Spain’s northern towns as having more authentic and historical Semana Santa parades.

The processions are sober and regal, emphasising devotion, remembrance and silence. Wherever you choose to visit during Semana Santa, it is guaranteed to be a unique and unforgettable experience.

Semana Santa in Malaga

WITH over 500 years of history, Malaga is one of the most popular destinations for visitors who wish to see the religious, social and cultural spectacular that is Semana Santa.

Semana Santa on the Costa del Sol is often considered a little livelier than celebrations in the north of Spain.

There is no doubt that Malaga comes alive as the brotherhoods make their way through the streets bearing their thrones, overwhelmed by the sounds of joy and applause, but there is still an element of religious pious evident throughout the week.

In fact, variety defines Semana Santa in Malaga, with old and new brotherhoods coming together to mix the luxury of the ornate thrones with a great emphasis on the penitential spirit.

Every year, Malaga-born actor Antonio Banderas makes an effort to spend Semana Santa in his hometown, where he leads the Virgin de las Lagrimas y Favores procession

Battling brotherhoods in Almeria

IT may be bigger in Sevilla or Malaga, but Holy Week in Almeria is actually considered one of the best, and most important, in all of Spain.

In fact the event itself is officially considered to be of National Touristic Interest, one of the exclusive few in the country to win such an accolade.

First and foremost is the fascinating rivalry between the brotherhoods.

Due to occupation by the Islamic Moors, Semana Santa didn’t get off the ground in Almeria until the 16th century.

A century later different brotherhoods began competing for influence and souls during an economic and demographic crisis which saw many people set sail for the new world. The brotherhoods became alternative power structures with incredible influence which lasts to this day.

Today there are more than 20 across the city and Semana Santa is made infinitely more fascinating as the different sects try to outdo one another with separate parades spread out across the week.

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