Semana Santa (Easter Week) is one of the most exciting celebrations of the year in Spanish-speaking countries. Colourful religious acts and processions fill streets, as people come together to celebrate the Passion of Christ. Today we bring you 5 surprising facts about Semana Santa!
Get Out of Jail Free Card during Semana Santa
Every Easter in Spain, two dozen jail inmates are freed. The tradition originated in 1759 after a riot broke out in a Malaga prison. Inmates discovered Easter processions would be cancelled due to a plague outbreak. In response, they escaped from jail and carried Jesus's image through the streets, before returning to their prison cells. The reigning King Charles III was so touched that he decided to free prisoners every Easter, a tradition which continues today.
Semana Santa is celebrated by all....including celebrities
Hollywood film star Antonio Banderas never misses Easter celebrations in his home city of Málaga, and can often be seen taking part in the processions.
Plays are taken seriously
Each year, the Mexican city of Iztapalapa hosts the largest Passion reenactment in the world. Up to 3 million people take part in the Passion plays. A committee of residents are in charge of choosing who plays Christ, which has strict requirements. In 2017, Erick Eduardo Guzmán was removed from the leading role after it was discovered that he was married.
Strength is key
Each 'paso' - a religious float - can weigh over 1,000 kgs. It takes about 40-50 men organized in 'cofradias' (brotherhoods) to carry one paso.
Skeletons come out
The Catalan town of Verges, holds the Dance of Death during Maundy Thursday which celebrates Jesus' last supper.
Residents dress up in skeleton costumes and dance around the streets to the sound of drums. It reminds us that no matter what your status is in life, the Dance of Death unites all.
Semana Santa is a great time to travel to Spanish-speaking countries and witness a spectacular celebration!
Ready to immerse yourself in local culture?
Brush up on your Spanish before you leave!