Explore the Holy Week, Seville (Spain)! The Semana Santa is observed from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. For 7 days, crowds of people join the brotherhoods (hermandades and cofradias) with austerity, fervor and enthusiasm.
If you intend to see it in Sevilla, you will soon realize that it is one of the most original and genuine celebrations in the world. To make it an unforgettable experience, follow some hints and rules that will help you such an amazing festival and understand its customs.
Holy Week, Seville (Spain): Silence And Respect
One of the most important rules that everyone enjoying the Semana Santa should apply is respect. Bear in mind that the street will be absolutely crowed (you can’t imagine how much until you are there for the first time). Therefore, some respect and common sense is mandatory, especially when it comes to positioning yourself to get a glimpse at the procession and the attitude you must have towards the pasos.
Please, whenever the paso arrives and as long as it marching through the street, be quiet. Remember that you are in the middle of a religious celebration involving mourning and penance.
Furthermore, as you don’t touch a painting in a museum, don’t touch the pasos as they pass by.
Holy Week, Seville (Spain): Finding The Best Spot
Usually, the sidewalk curb delimitates the space the procession has to go through the street. Therefore, if you are standing in the street as the procesion approaches you’ll be pushed towards the curb by the diputados de tramo, and you’ll bother the people at the front.
Additionally, if you see people already standing at the curb, respect their position an do not stand in front of them. Some of them might have been there for hours to get this spot… So, if you try to stay in front, you’ll be asked (probably not very kindly) to leave or move. And if you try to stay behind them and there is no room for you, people may refuse to let you stay there, or even let you through.
Finally, you may see people carrying ladders or climbing up trash containers to get a view over the rest.
Holy Week, Seville (Spain): Crowds (Bullas)
As I’ve said before, during Semana Santa the streets are packed with people. You’ll see crowds everywhere and you need to learn how to deal with them.
In this case, be patient as it will be very hard and long to get through a narrow street. You’ll also face people moving around you that will ask you to let them pass. Do if you can, and excuse yourself if you can’t.
You may even encounter people that will not let you pass despite asking politely. If this person has been there for a long time you might be the 50th or 100th person to ask.
Avoid the area surrounding the Carrera Oficial:
- The Calle Sierpes, La Campana (bell), Plaza San Francisco, Avenida de la Constitucion near the Cathedral, and Plaza Virgen de los Reyes all have sections with reserved seating. There are either bleachers erected or seats lined up along the street that prevent the way.
- If you try to get through you’ll encounter surveillants that control the access.
Holy Week, Seville (Spain): Rain Is The Biggest Threat
If the weather forecast announces rain (or serious menace of), brotherhoods may decide to cancel the procession. If, on the other hand, rain interrupts a procession at any point of its journey, the brotherhood will seek refuge in a suitable nearby church. The pasos, imagenes and other items are usually ancient and vulnerable masterpieces that can be seriously damaged with even a little water.
Sadly, interrupted processions are resumed only in very limited circumstances (and will only do so if the logistics permit it and other brotherhoods accept). Those that have definitely been called-off ones will not have a chance to exit until next year.
- Crowds are ideal for thieves. I’ve never had a problem myself after many years seeing processions, but never take you eye off your belongings (particularly cameras and purses).
- Unfortunately, Ku Klux Klan members clothing bear an unfortunate similarity to those used by the nazarenos. Remember that nazarenos exist since the 16th century! So don’t shout, as I heard a couple of tourists once, that nazarenos are scary and freaky because they’ve copied their habits from the KKK! Even though you are in Spain, more people than you imagine understand English.
- Don’t forget that there are still many nazarenos and penitentes walking barefoot or wearing only socks. If you are drinking from a glass bottle, don’t break it and get rid of it properly. If you smoke, don’t throw out your butts on the street.
- You can, of course, take as many pictures as you want… I surely do!
Do you know the next Semana Santa dates?