Why is Easter such a big deal in Spain?

Semana Santa......the event that has been running for over 500 years and attracts millions of visitors to Málaga city annually.

Our very own Estrella Crespo provides her insight into the history and tradition of Semana Santa in Málaga.

HOLY WEEK (known in Spain as Semana Santa)

It has its origin from the events that the apostles provided us in the Bible during the days before and after the death and resurrection of Jesus. From the Passion of Christ: the entrance into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, and the Via Crucis.

It is preceded by the period of Lent, which in Latin means "fortieth" and which is the liturgical period for the Easter’s preparation. It begins with the Ash Wednesday and ends with the Holy Thursday. This is the time of penitence for all Catholics and for other religions. The duration of the Lent comes from the symbol of the number forty in the Bible; the forty days of the flood, the forty days of the Jewish people's march through the desert, the forty days that Jesus was praying in the desert of Judea before beginning his public life and the forty decades that the Jewish people's slavery lasted in Egypt.

At the Council of Nicaea in 325 a.C. it was decided that Easter should be celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon after March or Spring equinox, and for this reason never before March 21st.


The origin of Semana Santa in Málaga comes from its conquest in 1487 by the Catholic Kings when the first brotherhoods were created by the religious orders established in the city. Already in the middle of the 16th century, many Passion’s brotherhoods were created. They were linked to convents and their aim was taking their images to the streets to help the neediest brothers and accompany them in their saddest hours.

In February 1980, Semana Santa in Málaga, a great religious, cultural and social event celebrated in the city every year, was declared of International Tourist Interest.

From Palm Sunday, or better, from the previous Friday of Sorrows until Easter Sunday, the streets of the city are flooded by penitents, images, thrones, candles, brotherhoods, flowers… visitors and citizens placed in any corner of the city from where they can see or have a good perspective of the procession, sometimes making it even more spectacular.

In some parts of the procession route, there are limited areas where chairs can be rented to sit down and watch the many brotherhoods passing by during the day, each day and during so many hours, offering a fantastic religious, cultural and touristic scene.

We cannot forget that the life and death of Jesus is being represented. We can see each carving, each sculpture, each cloak that the master hands of its artisans made. We are seeing not only a historical moment, but also authentic works of art created with devotion and passion. When looking at the face of this Christ or Virgin, we are seeing not only an image, but also the love that the artisan has put in his work, you can see its pain, its tears, its penance... you can feel the suffering of the Virgin and Mother crying for her son, and you recognize the great piece of art that the artisan is showing, taking around, strolling through our streets, even dancing and flowing with the rhythm of the "Processional March" by the music band and led by the "Throne Men". Under their wooden or metal poles, the members of the brotherhood are living something they have dreamed of throughout their lives and that from parents to children is inherited as a great honour.

The Thrones and the poles carrying these images are so enormous and are stored inside the churches throughout the year due to their size, for this reason, they began to build “Brotherhood Houses” of very large dimensions so that all these thrones, candles, poles, treasures, mantles, can be protected and exhibited at the same time, always with their custodians. And it is to these Brotherhood Houses where each image a few days before their processional departure is transported by one of their "Brothers" in order to "Enthrone" them and locate them in the place where we will later see them exposed during the procession.

It is typical in Málaga the way of carrying these litters, which are called “Thrones” and are loaded as we said by the Men of Throne who put their shoulders under the long pole.

In most Spanish cities and towns, this is not the usual way of transporting images in processions, as they are carried by “Costaleros” who receive this name because they carry a sack on their neck and back on which they carry the poles.

At the front of the Throne there is a bell that is tolled by the "Butler" to indicate to all these men when to lift up, raise, lower or stop. If he gives two touches in a row and a paused one, it indicates the descent or rise of the throne. Three touches in a row and a paused one, indicates the freehand rise of the Throne.

Palm Sunday starts early with the departure of La Pollinica accompanied by many children among the penitents.

In our Semana Santa we have a very special Butler in the brotherhood of Lágrimas y Favores that every Palm Sunday leaves his film making, the flash lights and his busy public life and disappears under his robe with his beloved "Niña de San Juan", with all the Brothers, with his bell, and finally sings the hymn to this Virgin with all of them. In the meantime, from the tower of the church and from the nearby balconies petals of roses are thrown before entering the Church of San Juan.

Each procession usually consists of two thrones, The Christ usually goes ahead along with his marching band, penitents, Nazarenes, candleholders, belongings such as prayer books, lanterns and accompanied by people who have made a promise or that by penance accompany the image. Afterwards, the Virgin usually goes with all her courtship.

There are brotherhoods which processes only the images of the Christ or the Virgin.

It is also characteristic of the processions in Málaga, the escort of the military bodies such as Local Police, State Security Corps, The Navy, The Legion, Regulars, Marine Corps, Parachute Brigade, Civil Guard, who venerate and accompany the Sacred Holders. These parades, the landing in the case of the Legion that accompanies the Christ of Mena, the guards in the days preceding the procession, the exhibits of the Parachute Brigade that accompanies the Christ of Blind Souls on Holy Wednesday, which is part of the largest entourage and in which there are four images that process. All of this, in general, is part of the spectacularism, devotion and grandeur of what is one of the greatest and most admiring Semana Santa´s in our country.

On the thrones, it is admirable how the images, candles, flowers, canopies, candlesticks are strategically placed, so that everything together is a spectacle for the faithful, admirers of art and tourists in general who these days see how this city is dressed, transformed and prepared for the biggest event of the year.

There are hundreds of men who under each image and holding its poles, walk with a rhythmic step through our streets, accompanied by the music band, holding and walking the image like if they were simply walking in the street.

There is an official tour through which all the brotherhoods must pass, the Alameda Principal, Calle Larios, Plaza de la Constitución. There is a very special place in which from very early in the morning and during many hours of waiting, people look for a small hole to see their favourite images that from Calle Carretería approach with a slow pace and to the rhythm of their Processional March. This place is called “La Tribuna de los Pobres” (The Tribune of the Poor). We don’t know when this tradition started and has become a must-see in Málaga, but is a spectacle to see the procession from there and to see how the large families bring their chairs, supplies and bags with food, they look for a place and during the day, wheatear is sunny or cold, they wait patient for the brotherhoods pass.

The Captive known as "El Señor de Málaga"(The Man of Málaga) accompanied by the generally known "La Trinidad" (The Trinity) canonically crowned in 2000, from his church of San Pablo in the popular neighborhood of Trinidad, moves thousands of devotees who have come from anywhere from Spain or the whole world, accompanying him on his many visits. Every year and without fail, they walk to the Civil Hospital of Málaga to support the ill patients and to pray with them. On Holy Monday afternoon, he processes through Málaga without being carried on his throne, walking through the people with his company, with his white skirts and the wind that accompanies him on his walk making all those who are witnessing him hold their breath.

There are many brotherhoods and images that during this special week make Málaga very famous and from any corner of the world it is known for its spectacular mixed tradition as we said, of devotion, art and popularity.

Children, from a very young age, walking with penitents with their lighted candles and velones, to entertain themselves they make balls that at first may be made up from a little paper or perhaps a little plastic, and when left under the melted candle that some penitent lets him catch, throughout the week, ends up being a huge multi-coloured ball of all types of waxes that and sometimes, it is the father or the older brother who lets the little one inherit that “Treasure”.

These days, we all come and go from one street to another or to a square, trying to see some of these images and how they are carried, with extreme discipline and elegance.

The Christ of Students and the Virgin of Grace and Hope closely linked to the University, stroll through our streets on Holy Monday, while the faithful and his band sing their hymn Gaudeamus Igitur and all those attending are amazed with that Christ sitting on the reel throne, very characteristic of Málaga sculptors.

This occurs while in another street and among a crowd of faithful and curious, The Christ of the Gypsies appears, well known for the colour of his skin.

Every day there are several brotherhoods that make their processional tour of our streets, they leave their Brotherhood House almost at noon, and until very late at night they do not enter it again. Exhausted by the long journey and proud to have accompanied their Image and that everything went well during the tour, in this moment, they celebrate the glorious day that has just ended and begin to prepare what will be the next Semana Santa.

There are many brotherhoods: Rocío, Rescate, Paloma, Salesianos, Cena, Vera + Cruz, this last one has the oldest Christ of all the images that we can see on our streets these days. Zamarrilla, with a beautiful story happened to a bandit and the Christ of Miracles accompanied by the Virgin of Bitterness and kept by the Cavalry Army with a representation of the Band of Bugles and Drums.

Anywhere along the way, the sound of a “Bolt” can surprise us. It is a song that comes from Andalusian popular folklore, sung by one person, usually improvised and without accompaniment, directed to the image this person has a special feeling for.

La Esperanza, who with many faithful and accompanied on their journey from the Jesus of the Passage, has the largest throne of all those who process through the city during these days, its poles measure about 14 meters and need about 274 Men of Throne to be able to move it.

Descendimiento, Amor, Piedad are just a few more brotherhoods that these days flood our streets with their very long entourages of penitents, lit candles, promises and the public that in general are amazed by the amount of citizens moving from one side to the other and surprised by the not only religious, but also artistic and cultural exhibition.

This beginning of Spring lived from our city, means that at the same time we can see the Virgin of Love accompanying Jesus the Rich releasing a prisoner every year, thanks to the Pragmatic Sanction of King Carlos III, while he gives the blessing to all those called with his right hand.

On Easter Sunday, accompanied by a representation of all the brotherhoods, Our Father Jesus Risen, of great artistic value, comes out with Mary Most Holy Queen of Heaven, the headlines of the Association of Brotherhoods and representing the resurrection of Jesus. With them Semana Santa in Málaga ends.

At the same time and a little further, we can have a beer in any of the bars and restaurants that delight us with their viands, and a while later or in the morning, take a sunbath on any of the beaches that we can enjoy in the very center of the city.

This is a city that combines and puts at our service both our most ancient traditions and the greatest modernity.

This year, due to the health circumstances that affect us all and due to responsibility, all this cannot be lived in our now empty streets, but in the hearts of each one of us who every year live this special event.

From this beautiful, cozy and cosmopolitan city, we wait for next Easter to live with you, if possible with more desire, enthusiasm and enjoyment, each of the moments that we have narrated to you.

This is a city that awaits you with open arms to show you all our beauties such as beaches, beach bars, bars, monuments and museums, and experiences such as the Easter celebrations.

Come, live and see Málaga and its traditions, only in this way you will understand a little more about us.

The Team Group will be delighted to meet you on one of your visits.

Estrella Crespo