Friday, April 22, 2011

Semana Santa

A few updates before I get to the good stuff:
-I’m cooking a course for Easter dinner, which is really lunch here, this Sunday.  Mom is begging me not to attempt homemade pierogies but I feel that any Easter without my favorite Polish delicacy is just not Easter at all.  I’ll let you know how this all works out.  If you haven’t heard from me by Monday, you’ll know the pierogies got the best of me.

-My cold is getting better (thanks for all the well-wishes everyone!) but I’m still a bit stuffy.  I’m hoping that the horseradish I find (fingers crossed) to eat with the pierogies I make (toes, ankles, arms, and eyes crossed too) will help clear up any residual nasal congestion.  
-My beginner level Spanish course was cancelled due to low enrollment (there was one student enrolled...which was me).

-I am now enrolled Spanish starting May 10th (please commence laughing out loud at your computers).  I have two weeks to learn the content from beginner Spanish before I begin the embarrassment that will be the intermediate course.  Hurray.  Upside: I can study on the beach.

-Lent is almost over and I have been coffee-free for 38 days, not that I’m keeping track.  Borja is truly enjoying these final hours before my reunion with my long-lost caffeinated friend as he keeps offering to make me a nice, strong cup of café.   He thinks he’s very funny.  I do not.

-Alicante has grown exponentially this week with the onslaught of tourists from Madrid (darn tourists!) taking their holiday vacations on the sandy beaches of the Costa Blanca.  Historically, as has been the case this year, the Madrileños bring the rain and soggy weather with them when they arrive.  So, after three weeks here on the coast, I saw my first Spanish thunderstorm.  Conclusion: the rain in Spain does indeed stay mainly on the plain.  Phew!  I’m glad we have finally solved that mystery!
Alrighty!  Onto the exciting stuff!  Religious education!  
Oh, you don’t want to learn all about the historical significance in Spanish culture of these guys?
Or how hundreds of volunteers carry floats called pasos, each weighing over a ton, on their shoulders for many hours?
Well I am going to tell you anyway!  I love the challenge of educating even the most reluctant pupils and I am just bursting with exciting Spanish trivia!
Here in Spain, Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a very busy time.  From Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday, thousands of people crowd the streets to see the processions organized by the brotherhoods of different churches in each city.  Since there are many churches in Alicante, as in all of the rest of Spain, there were between 3 and 10 processions each day.  The processions are similar to parades, though they are a lot slower and not as “showy.”  These are generally pretty somber events as they’re done in observance of Holy Week and are made to specifically coordinate with the events of these days in the life of Jesus.  For example, I saw this paso yesterday, Holy Thursday, in observance of The Last Supper:
There are usually two or three marching bands playing beautiful music with a very heavy bass beat.  This beat dictates the steps of the paso-carriers, called costaleros.  The costaleros are all volunteers who spend many hours prior to the procession practicing going down stairs, turning tight corners, and dipping under the wires that criss-cross many tiny Spanish streets.  The most important focus for all of their hard work is maintaining a slow, rhythmic step that is absolutely in unison.  It was a little bit eerie to see these figures being carried on platforms to this swaying motion.  It gives the impression that the statues themselves are walking...freaky.  

The robes and conical hats adorning the Nazarenos are traditionally worn in the processions as penance for sins committed.  The costume was designed to conceal the identity of the wearer so they do not receive praise from other people for their penance.  Some Nazarenos also walk the procession barefoot, carrying a candle, or carrying shackles and chains as penance.  According to a friend, many people these days wear the robe only for “show” in the procession but there are some that are truly “doing penance.”  Though this particular ceremonial garb may remind you of a different group, the two are unrelated; this tradition in Spain dates back to medieval times.
The pasos themselves are very lifelike sculptures made of wood and plaster that depict scenes from the events that happened between Jesus’ arrest and his burial.  Here are a couple more of the ones I saw between the two different processions:

So I hope your nerdy tank is full with all of this wonderful new information that I have bestowed upon you!  I know mine is just overflowing!  I have a few new posts already brewing and I’ll have those, and my nice big cup of coffee, in a couple of days.  I hope you all have a great holiday and pray for pierogies.

Thanks for reading,


  1. I'm so glad you had a chance to see some of the processions of Semana Santa. I watched some of them on You Tube (from other years.) I felt like I was there. The music was cool - seemed like a lot of brass, trumpets, etc. Regarding the pierogies - hey go for it! I've only ever
    "made" Mrs. T's. Run little p-doggy run. xo Mom

  2. Good luck with the Pierogies! I've never been brave enough to attempt them.

    As for the Spanish class, I'm sure you'll rise to the occasion of the class- you've had lots of practice with all your new friends. If nothing else, you'll be the queen of charades when you come home :)