Easter week in Sevilla is world famous – but there are Easter processions in cities and towns all over the country, not just in the south.
This page has some tips to find some of the “other” celebrations. Just a selection, as there are many, many more. Sevilla and other big cities in the south are not included because they get lots of space elsewhere.
Special spotlight on the Castilla-Leon region (most of the north-central plains). In addition to some great Easter processions, Castilla-Leon has lots of other cultural sights to keep you busy when the processions aren’t happening. The region also has fabulous food and is quite near Madrid, so if you decide not to go at Easter do take note for another time.
But first: do you know how the date for Easter is calculated? It’s the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. (read that slowly and you’ll get it). Easter can happen anytime from March 22 to April 25.
EASTER DATES IN 2018:
- Palm Sunday: March 25
- Holy Thursday: March 29
- Good Friday: March 30
- Easter Sunday: April 1
- Easter Monday: April 2
Easter week vocabulary:
- paso: Carved statue on a platform, usually carried but can be on wheels
- confradia: Groups sponsering different pasos, different saints, or from different chuches. Can have friendly or less-friendly rivalry with another confradira
- encuentro: Encounter between two different pasos, something to watch for as paso bearers can make their paso dance or sway to greet the other paso.
- tamborrada: drumming. Sometimes in a procession, sometimes just ongoing thunder for several days in a row. Frequent in Aragon region (Teruel and Zaragoza provinces).
- Picao / empalao: traditions where pentitents in a procession walk barefoot, beating own backs with cords (picao) or barefoot with arms tied to a pole (emaplao)
Below are some places with interesting Easter celebrations. Check at local tourism offices or online for exact details for year you are visiting (usually there aren’t many changes but it can happen).
A bit of everywhere: Alcañiz, Hijar and Calanda (all in Teruel province): for the tamborrada. Cuenca, for the “Calvario” procession early Friday morning. Baeza (Jaen) at midday on Good Friday several pasos meet. Jerez de la Frontera (Cadiz), for the Palm Sunday procession. Lorca (Murcia) for its unusual Friday procession. San Sebastián, for its festival of sacred music. San Vicente de la Sonsierra (Logroño) for the picaos. Toledo, for its silent procession. Valverde de la Vera (Cáceres) for the Thursday night procession with empalaos. In addition to these celebrations during Easter week, lots of places have special celebrations on Easter Sunday, Easter Monday and even Easter Tuesday, and others celebrate the Sunday after Easter; this last date is celebrated in Fregenal de la Siera in Badajoz, Fromista in Palencia, Palma de Mallorca, San Vicente de la Barquera in Cantabria (depending on tides!).
Spotlight on Castilla – Leon If you’ve seen Easter in other parts of Spain, visiting Castilla – Leon will let you compare and contrast the celebrations – and if you haven’t seen other Easter processions, this is a good place to start. And this nearby region is often overlooked, there are some wonderful places waiting for your visit.
Where to go? Castilla – Leon’s nine provinces cover most of north – central Spain, from the Guadarrama mountains north of Madrid to the mountain chains near the northern coast. All the provincial capitals have processions, as well as many smaller cities and towns. The government of Castilla – Leon has evaluated the tourist interest of the celebrations (evaluation is used below), but even the lesser-known processions are usually good – and may be more interesting because they’re less crowded or feel more authentic than the opulent processions of the major destinations.
Provincial capitals with the“most interesting” celebrations, usually with processions from the Friday before Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday
– Leon Good Friday, morning, start of a long procession, has an encuentro in the Plaza Mayor. Easter Sunday, another morning procession with an encuentro, doves released before Mass.
– Salamanca Holy Thursday, procession that crosses Roman bridge. Good Friday, four evening processions.
– Valladolid pasos by Gregorio Fernández, an outstanding sculptor from the 17th century. Encuentro processions on Tuesday, Easter Sunday. Seven processions Thursday night, three starting at midnight. Doves released Easter Sunday.
– Zamora: Wednesday, Silent procession. Good Friday, very early in the morning, Jesus Nazareno procession, leaving the church is considered one of the best moments of Zamora’s Easter; same procession has an encuentro. Easter Sunday, encuentro in the Plaza Mayor. (tip: if you visit Zamora at another time, be sure to see the Easter Week museum. You can see the pasos close up and even (though don’t quote me) peek under the curtain around the bottom to see where the paso bearers do their thing)
Provincial capitals with celebrations considered “less interesting” by the regional government (don’t let that put you off, check out Segovia description of torchlight procession) . Some cities have processions all week, others don’t.
– Ávila: Wednesday night: Cristo de las Batallas procession around the medieval walls. Good Friday, very early morning, Via Crucis around the walls.
– Burgos: Thursday night, procession with encuentro. Good Friday, daytime procession near the castle. In Palencia: Tuesday evening, the Arrest of Jesus, where one of the brotherhoods takes the paso from the Cathedral. Good Friday, very early morning, Silent procession. Easter Sunday, procession with encuentro and lifting of the Virgin’s veil. In Soria: Thursday night, Silent procession.
– Segovia Thursday night, seven processions, one by torchlight. Good Friday, procession from the Cathedral down to the Aqueduct. Santo Entierro procession, from outlying neighborhood Zamarramala to mysterious Vera Cruz church, on outskirts of town under the Alcázar (this is considered one of the best of Segovia’s Easter).
Smaller cities and towns with interesting celebrations, most with interesing things to see nearby.
Burgos province: Passion plays usually held in Lerma and Covarrubias. Aranda de Duero: Peñafiel: child suspended over the street like an angel removes a veil from the statue of the Virgen on morning of Easter Sunday, other processions during the week
Leon province. Astorga: Morning of Good Friday, Procession with meeting of two pasos ; also San Juanin, where a small paso is run around a square, symbolizing the race to tell the Virgin about the death of her son. Processions the rest of the week. Ponferrada, especially for Friday procession. La Bañeza, especially Wednesday and Friday processions.
Palencia province: Carrion de los Condes
Valladolid province: Medina de Rioseco, Medina del Campo, Tordesillas. Peñafiel: child suspended over the street like an angel removes a veil from the statue of the Virgen on morning of Easter Sunday, other processions during the week
Salamanca province: Ciudad Rodrigo. Passion plays usually held in La Alberca and Candelario.
Soria province: Burgo de Osma. San Esteban de Gormaz.
Zamora province: Toro
For more information: Here is a selection of websites – there are more, any search engine will turn up a lot, though not all have full information in English. Sometimes they update late (alas) so be sure you’re looking at information for current year
All nine provincial capital cities: http://www.elnortedecastilla.es/semanasanta/
Medina de Campo (city in Valladolid province): http://www.semanasantamedina.com
Astorga (city in Leon province): http://www.semanasanta-astorga.com