Holy Week in Galicia is the annual commemoration of the Passion of Jesus Christ celebrated by Catholic religious brotherhoods and fraternities that perform penance processions on the streets of almost every Galician towns and villages during the last week of Lent, the week immediately before Easter.
The most famous Holy Week celebrations are hold in the towns of Ferrol, Viveiro, Cangas or Pontevedra but almost every town or village in the Camino has some sort of procession.
- When is Holy Week in Galicia?
The dates of the Holy Week varies each year. The processions usually start on Palm Sunday-on 13th April 2014- and go on until Easter Sunday- on 20th April 2014.
The most special days in the Holy Week are:
- Palm Sunday. On 13th April 2014 locals usually take olive tree and palm leaves to the church emulating Jesus entering Jerusalem. Galician children are often given traditional crosses from palm leaves.
- Ash Wednesday-on 16th April 2014- represents the beginning of a long and strict religious fast when people had to give up all rich food but Christian church no longer imposes such a severe fast nowadays. On Ash Wednesday locals attend a religious service where the ashes are blessed by the priest who dips his thumb in the ashes and makes the sign of the cross on each parishioner´s forehead.
- Holy Thursday – Maundy Thursday – (Last Supper leading to the Eucharist, during the Last Supper, Jesus washed his disciples feet and it is remembered in all Galician churches in Holy Thursday’s religious services). This year falls on 17th April.
- Good Friday – Holy Friday – (The day on which Jesus was crucified). Good Friday is on 18th April 2014. On Holy Thursday and Good Friday the most famous and important “pasos” are carried throughout the streets of many Galician towns.
- Easter Day (The day on which Jesus came back to life). This year Easter Day is on 20th April 2014.
- What is a procession like?
The street processions are a solemn parade of religious art icons known in Spanish as “pasos”. The “pasos” are floats of lifelike wooden sculptures of individual scenes of events of the Passion and images of the Virgin Mary showing restrained grief for the torture and killing of her son. The “pasos” march throughout the town everyday from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. The “pasos” are carried on the shoulders of religious brotherhoods´ members. The people who carry the weight of the “pasos” are called “costaleros” (sack men). Besides, the procession is accompanied by groups of Nazarenes, hooded penitents and members of the brotherhood carrying crosses and long wax candles marching in silence through the streets.
- Which processions can you attend in your Camino?
If you are walking the Camino and you have the chance you could attend some of the spectacular processions in Galicia. For instance, if you are walking the Camino Portugués you could see the famous procession of “la Borriquita” (the little donkey) in Cambados or there is also a popular procession in Pontevedra that starts in La Ferrería square and it goes from San Francisco church through the main streets of the old town. Most of processions are played along bagpipes, drums and brass-bands. Vigo and Cangas are also places on your Camino Portugués that have a special devotion for the Passion of Christ. Cangas has got its most powerful moment in the silence of the “Caladiños” as they walk in procession around the town on Good Friday.
On the other hand, if you are spending some days in Galicia after your Camino , you could enjoy the spectacular processions in northern Galicia. Ferrol and Viveiro are good options. Viveiro is a little fishermen town which has been considered as Festival of International Tourist interest of Spain since 2013. Ferrol has also considered Festival of International Tourist interest of Spain for a long time. The town’s maritime and military tradition gives this celebration a unique atmosphere, commemorating the passion and death of Jesus Christ. The event has a sober beauty and is spectacular on account of the vivid colours worn by the members of the different “hermandades” (brotherhoods), as they walk in procession through the streets, carrying the “pasos”, to the rhythm of drums and music bands. Of the most popular, special mention should be made of the Caladiños (one of Ferrol’s oldest pasos), the Santo Encuentro and the Good Friday processions.
The processions in some towns ,as in Santiago de Compotela, are sometimes hold at night and they are lit by torchlight. It´s an outstanding experience to live this air of medieval mystery although you are not a religious person. You can check the program of processions in www.santiagoturismo.com/procesions.
- Special food at Easter in Galicia
After the fast weeks of Lent, food at Easter is always a special treat. Easter day, like Christmas day, is also associated with special food. It is eaten the famous Galician “cocido” which is made of cabbage or turnips, boiled potatoes, beans and beef and pork meat.
The traditional dessert is the Easter “rosca”. It is a baked rounded sweet loaf of bread encrusted with sugar. Originally the “rosca” was a gift from godmothers to their godchildren until they get married when the gift was in reverse, godchildren give the “rosca” to their godmothers.
BUEN CAMINO, AMIGOS