Semana Santa Holy Week
The last week of Lent before the bright celebrations of Easter is one of the most important festivals not just in Majorca, but in the whole of Spain. Semana Santa Holy Week marks the final week of Christ’s life before the Crucifixion, and starts with Palm Sunday. True to its name, traditional blessings that incorporate palm and olive branches start the proceedings, and the bells ring out from every church tower across the island. It signals the beginning of a week of festivities that includes firework displays, parades, entertainment, and lots of eating and drinking.
The important thing to remember, though, is that this is very much a religious festival, and much of the celebration will focus around Mass, solemn processions, and religious contemplation. Although there are fiestas and fireworks, there’s also prayer and piety. If you’re not particularly religious then a day at the beach while the religious celebrations go on may be a good plan. You can always join in with the revelries in the evening, when everyone lets their hair down and the party gets started!
Nazareno Robes and hoods
One common theme that runs throughout the Semana Santa Holy Week celebrations is the wearing of the Nazreno or Penitential Robe. This is a long tunic with a hood that has a conical tip, which conceals the face of the wearer. The colours will depend on the procession and which saint or aspect of Holy Week it commemorates, as well as the ‘Brotherhood’ that the wearers belong to. The Nazareno dates back to medieval times, and was originally used to indicate a person’s penance while masking their identity. Each person carries a processional candle, which makes it a spectacular sight as the sun sets and dusk falls.
You’ll also see specially made Pasos, which are floats with sculptures that show the different scenes from the gospels, and are often hundreds of years old. The procession is topped off with a band that follows the Paso and plays ‘Marchas Procesionales’, which is a special type of music only played during these parades. Watch out for one of the biggest parades on Maundy Thursday, when the procession of La Sang winds its way through the streets of Palma de Mallorca.
Food and drink
Semana Santa Holy Week is very much a family celebration, and even though it falls in the last week of Lent, there is plenty of food and drink on offer. After all, any excuse for a party! It’s a great opportunity to experience some of the more traditional dishes of the island, which make up a big part of the celebrations. Look out for panades, which is a pie filled with lamb, peas, cured sausage known as sobrassada, and bacon. In some places the meat is replaced with fish, and no two panades are the same, thanks to some closely-guarded family recipes!
Robiols are sweet, half-moon shaped pies and a big hit with the kids. The fillings range from sweet fruit jelly or jam, through to more modern additions such as chocolate. Another sweet treat is crepsells, which are differently-shaped biscuits made from the same dough as robiols, but without the filling.
Whether you’re religious or not, Semana Santa holy week in Majorca is a great opportunity to really experience the more traditional side of the island that hasn’t been touched by tourism. Feel like one of the locals, and make sure you join in the celebrations if you’re here during holy week!