Category Archives: Spanish festivals

Semana Santa!

Spring Break.

These are two very exhilarating words.  Spring connotes a feeling of growth, beauty & freshness, and Break, well, who doesn’t love a break? A break from whatever you are consistently involved with. Whether it’s a fun & exciting thing or a mundane & taxing thing, a break from routine, or a break from reality is always welcome 🙂

For a week or two in March, sometimes April, in America we celebrate Spring Break. Whatever that means for you, whether you take off to a beach resort location, fly to Italy for 8 days, or simply relax in your house with your kiddos, everyone should have a little rest, however they deem worthy. In many Spanish speaking countries,  the time we call Spring Break, there they respectively refer to this time as Semana Santa (Holy Week). This year, Semana Santa official runs Sunday, March 24, 2013 through Easter Sunday on March 31. 2013. (Although this is one of the most popular Latin holidays, many people will take off the Friday before to begin their vacations making the unofficial start date, Fri. March 22nd).

Semana Santa is celebrated in many different ways, depending on country! It’s really an amazing phenomenon because while it’s contrived from the same origin, the method & exposition can be so vastly unique, it’s really quite amazing! Semana Santa is the week leading up to Easter and includes the Christian holidays of Palm Sunday, Maundry Thursday & Good Friday.

Have you investigated how & why Semana Santa is celebrated in YOUR host country? Let’s check out some facts:


In most Provinces of Argentina, Semana Santa is a time of parades, special Masses, Vía Crucis (special religious event – Station of the Cross), reenactments that remember the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Overall, whether you a devout Christian or not, it is a great time to remember & respect the traditions & customs of each town & city.  It is most definitely a time of rest & reflection for those practicing the Catholic faith and those that are not. It is a time of reflection para todo!

The Vía Crucis designates a specific path along which Jesus walked & many people reenact this walk to feel closer to God.

This week is really an amazing time to be in the city of Buenos Aires! For a more detailed calendar of cultural events during this week, visit the Official Website of Buenos Aires.


Costa Rica:

Although small in size, the country of Costa Rica has one of the strongest & largest cultural & religious strengths in Latin America! During Semana Santa the country flares with vitality & presence holding their dramatic religious processions & services, dedicated to the last remaining days of the life of Jesus Christ. The majority of Ticos & Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica consider this to be a time to be spent with their families and with travel to all distances to be able to do so. Because of their AMAZING geographical location, breathtaking coastal lines, and superbly luscious rainforests, many bigger cities are void of locals as they will spend their time off relaxing at the beaches & at tranquil mountain Hot Springs & getaways. Ticos observe the celebration in a variety of ways: bullfights, rodeos, dancing, parades, fireworks, etc.



Other than Christmas, this is one of the TOP, most important religious holidays in the country of Mexico! The country of Mexico is almost 90% catholic therefore making this celebration an almost completely country-wide assembly. A great highlight of this celebration in Mexico is that the weather is absolutely wonderful during this time! Many families go to the beach or enjoy camping. Of course there are the shared traditions such as the reflection of religion, fiestas, processions, vigils, reenactments of the Crucifixion of Christ and the Easter Sunday celebration, but Mexico also holds their own unique version  of the creating of the Palm crosses, celebration of the Good Friday mass and of course the burning of Judas in effigy (for betraying Christ).

Easter Eggs in Mexico? Another unique aspect to the way Mexico celebrates Semana Santa (and the day of Pascua) is with their colored eggs (just like the US!). But in Mexico, the insides are emptied out, filled with confetti & called cascarones.

The reenactments & dramatizations are one of the main ways the Mexicans observe this holiday. In some towns, they go all out as to put on full displays of the Last Supper, the Betrayal, the Judgement, the Procession of the 12 Stations of the Cross, the Crucifixion and, lastly, the Resurrection. Flagellation or even, real crucifixion is often included as well. Some participants will prepare the entire year for these events, therefore making them splendidly staged & very detailed in costumes & acting. It’s quite an amazing time there!



Spain outdoes other European countries in its celebration of Semana Santa. It is eminently renown for its celebration of Semana Santa! The celebrations comes immediately the week before Easter and the most charismatic & entrancing celebrations are in Andalucía (specifically Seville & Málaga).

One of the most iconic visions during this time may be initially off-putting for Americans, however, this traditional garb, called a Nazareno, has been a traditional ornamental dress for this holiday for as long as most can remember! These robes can vary depending on which type of procession they are being used.

Major towns in Spain may have a procession every night of Holy Week! The parades will include a variety of people & displays, including many floats anchored in religious decoration, followed by a plethora of Nazarenos. The Nazarenos are dressed in a long-hooded túnicas made of velvet or satin, and will carry a vela. Some may carry a sceptres. During the processions, people carry statues of saints on floats or wooden platforms. Some may discern a sense of mourning, which may seem oppressive to foreigners. The end of the Easter week & all its processions will blast off with Easter Sunday – a day full of light & color; cathedral & church bells can be heard blaring throughout the cities and mostly all of España.


Of course this wonderful & very traditional holiday is celebratated around the world and spawned from the same, very magical religious meaning! We hope that during this time you take a moment to relish in some of the very fun, and traditional ways your host country celebrates La Semana Santa and everything it encompasses! 🙂

“Thanks, I got it at Rebajas!”

While living in Cádiz, I knew this girl whom we’ll call Bootstraps. When the new year of 2010 rolled around, it seemed every day she would come into the apartment with a new jacket on or new boots. She often carried new hand bags, scarves and always had some new & amazing store to rave about! What was this anomaly? Boostraps had stumbled upon the January mercantile tradition of Rebajas! Whenever we said, “Oye, guapa, me encanta tu vestido nuevo!”she would answer, “Thanks, I got it at rebajas”, or ask, “Rubia, ¿dónde compraste esa chaqueta nueva? es super güey!” She would answer, “Thanks, I got it at rebajas”. It was simply such an exciting time, our ears & eyes were flooded with rebajas! Big red signs displaying the magic word were everywhere.


Whether you’re a fashionista, love saving money or simply like being clothed, you will love the sales in Spain during January. Some of the most amazing sales you will ever see in your life begin around the second week of January, right after the Three Kings Festival (Los Reyes Magos). These phenomenal sales occur in three stages: first, rebajas, then an even BIGGER markdown for a second wave of rebajas, and then finally, the third portion: FINAL CLEARANCE SALES! Europe in general is always on the cutting edge of fashion, and for our students in Spain, you’ll definitely get some of this filtered down into the South East corner to our favorite Spanish city, Granada! Stores will be swollen with incredibly priced clothes, jewelry, shoes, hats, garments, watches, etc. Anything you can imagine for prices you cannot!

The English translation of Rebaja is reduction or discount. Imagine an entire month just dedicated to reducing prices on fashionable items! (Sure, many of them you may not find suitable as the Southern Spaniards can be quite eccentric in what they choose to put on their bodies or how they style their hair, but who’s to stay the mullet didn’t die in the 80’s? (There is a little bit of everything for everyone). Have you noticed the abundance of Spanish mullets still? During my time in Granada my friends and I would spend certain afternoons on what we called our Mullet Safari. How many Spanish mullets can you count in one day?

Here are a few images of local Granada customs, including REBAJAS:

You will find clothes & accessories of all kinds, from the classy & streamlined edges of Zara, to the young & frisky elements of Blanco, swooping around to the edgy, urban woman of Mango, your shopping in Granada will not be in vain! (Okay, it might be, but take advantage of your time there). Course there are countless independent stores as well, including souevnir shops of local Andalucíans & Northern Africans. As for the Gypsies that congregate in front of the Catedral offering you a sprig of their rosemary – CAUTION!  They will hand it to you as a friendship offering, however  this “gift” is not free, not even on sale! Simply smile, watch your belongings closely, and enjoy flipping through racks of discounted goodies.

The main shopping area in Granada is near Puerta Real in the streets Reyes Católicos, Recogias, Mesones y Acera del Darro.

I hope anyone lucky enough to be in Spain at this time, or really, just be in Spain, has the time & means to partake in this wonderful tradition 🙂

P.S. Scarves make great gits.


Fiesta de la Toma (Festival of the Capture) – Jan 2nd

If you were a Sol Education Abroad student studying in Granada, Spain you wouldn’t have to be in school today or back to work, but rather celebrating Fiesta de la Toma (Festival of the Capture)!  Among the many Spanish, Andalucían and even Granadian festivals there are in a year (which is a lot!), the Festival of the Capture, unique to Granada, starts off the year with exciting colors, culture & history! This day is in recognition of the day the Catholics Monarchs “liberated” Granada in 1492. As we all know Spaniards have some of the most beautiful & culturally rich festivals in the world and this day is no exception. During la Fiesta de la Toma the festivities can include very eccentric & colorful parades displaying 15th century period costumes, the raising of the monarchs’ banner at the Ayuntamiento (City Hall – in Plaza del Carmen), as well as many young persons climbing up the Alhambra’s Toree de la Vela to ring its bell.

Here is a short video on the raising of the monarchs’ banner at city hall: