Holy Week or Semana Santa in Spain is mainly about reflection, sacrifice, bared feet, women in black and veils, mourning, pasos clogging the streets of the entire country(religious images or sculptures carried out by costaleros -bearers- whose devotion for a given virgin or saint lead them to display the latter on a religious parade) and…torrijas.
All the Lent starving ends to a festival of torrijas, which are probably the best kept Spanish Easter treasure, alongside with the Catalonian Mona de Pascua. They fiercely set the battle to the Easter Bunny and his mates. It is a very traditional and hard-to-digest-but-so-tasty-that-you-can´t-quit-eating-them dessert made of dried bread, egg, cinnamon, sugar and milk, well fried on a pan and served hot and accompanied by a hot chocolate drink.
Being from Alicante, Mona de Pascua or Cocas take my fancy. The grace of the mona is that netted inside the cake there is a boiled egg that has to be smashed on somebody else’s forehead to bring both of you good luck for the rest of the year. Slight similarity can be found in the traditional Easter egg hunts organized in the English villages, wherein the Easter Bunny hides Easter eggs for the local children to find. In some town, the local bakery would offer fragrant hot cross buns, warm from the oven, and Simnel cakes, with homemade marzipan ( reserved in Spain for Christmas time).
But there are also resemblances further than the sweet treats: the joy, the renewed vows and hopes, the effortful promises to be fulfilled and the eager spirit for family and tradition exaltation. Thus while in Spain the Manolas (anciently widows that closed the processions, dressed in mourning and praying for their lost ones) change their clothes and get into their newest and best outfits to celebrate His Arise in Easter Sunday, London holds an Easter parade in Battersea Park, and ladies get decked out in fancy handmade bonnets, decorated with ribbons and flowers.
It is easy to see as well how the Morris Dancers take over the British high streets and main squares. Their arrival brings a flock of men in black-and-white clothes — with straw hats, red sashes, ribbons, and bells on their ankles — dancing in the streets to chase away winter. The procession is followed by a bunch of young women, that after found themselves chased; hit the dancers with an inflated pig bladder on a stick to summon good luck.
Easter is an occasion for sober worship and quiet family gatherings sans the extravagance that accompanies other Christian feasts like Christmas. Nevertheless, springtime celebrations are gleefully observed in rural hinterland of both countries, aimed to test not only their faith, but also their stomachs endurance.
To sum up, if there is something that caught my attention these days is how different a same belief can be lived. The festive feelings of the British Easters strongly contrast with the more folkloric Spanish set on stage –with the permission of the silent processions in Old Castilla and the even more silent ones during Last Supper parades-.