The Spanish celebration of Holy Week takes Easter festivities to a new level, reminding us all the holiday is about a lot more than a white rabbit and an all you can eat chocolate gorge. Dedicating a whole seven days to re-enacting the journey to the Cross, Malaga is the place to be during the week leading to Easter Sunday. Here is our guide to the festivals and fairs of Malaga’s Semana Santa.
The festivities centre around seven days of long solemn penance processions parading through the city, each focusing on a different religious event or symbol. Organised by brotherhoods, each procession features a minimum of two large floats, one celebrating a Christ figure, the other the Virgin Mary, and are accompanied by brass bands and drummers. These floats are usually carried or lead by members of the brotherhood dressed in colourful silk robes with pointed hoods. Following the brotherhoods and floats, come the mourners. Usually women dressed in black outfits adorned with lacy veils, they carry candles and mourn the death of Christ. Whether you’re religious or not, these processions are spectacular and definitely worthwhile seeing if you get the chance to spend Easter in Malaga.
This is the first day of the processions and the most cheerful. Commemorating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the parade is made up mostly of children carrying large palm leaves. They pass beside ‘Tribune of the Poor’ at Calle Carreteria, the steps traditionally reserved for the poorest residents who couldn’t afford a seat.
Known as the parade of Jesus the Captive, Monday’s procession is the longest of the entire week. Featuring colourful floats with statues of Christ and virgin figures, gypsies follow behind singing and dancing around the city centre.
Virgen de las Penas is Tuesday’s procession and features a throne with religious figures wearing cloaks crafted entirely from fresh flowers made by the gardeners of Malaga city. The float is moved higher and lower by the men carrying it on their backs in accordance to musical rhythm.
Perhaps the most popular day of the week, Wednesday parades feature a unique aspect, the release of a prisoner. This tradition dates back to the 18th century when prisoners planned an uprising and escaped following the cancelation of the Easter processions. After they escaped, they put on their own parade and later returned to their cells prompting the then King Charles 111 to carry on a custom of releasing one prisoner a year on Holy Wednesday. To this day, it still happens that a pardoned prisoner accompanies the Christ figure every year.
To commemorate the foot washing and Last Supper of Jesus Christ, Malaga puts on the Parade of Legionaries starting at the port. This consists of Legionnaire troops following the Christ figure through the city.
The most solemn and silent of all the parades, Good Friday commemorates the Crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. The official townhall brotherhood lead this day and follow a religious figure called Virgen de los Dolores. The last procession of the day, Las Servitas, sees the lights of the city fade as the throne passes through it.
Mostly a day for families to attend church and eat a traditional lunch, the Resurrection parade brings Holy Week to an end. This parade sees the black and purple gowns replaced by white and green.
The Spaniards don’t completely leave out the eating aspect of the festivities. There are plenty of sweet options to tuck into during the week and dare I say some may even be better than a chocolate egg …
Typical of the Andalusian region, this pastry usually only makes an appearance during Holy Week so you’re going to want to get your hands on one while you can! Made from flour aniseed, wine, olive oil and a little sugar, it is essentially a piece of dough deep fried and glazed with honey or sugar.
These are little doughnuts with a twist. With no hole in the middle, this pasty is irregularly shaped, fried and coated with a sweet topping.
Monas de Pascua
The designated cake of Easter, Semana Santa Malaga wouldn’t be complete without it. Traditionally given as a gift from godparents to their godchildren, picture a giant ring doughnut topped with boiled eggs and you’ve pretty much got the idea. You may be questioning the egg portion of the recipe but it stems from the abstinence of meat and eggs over the period of Lent. Nowadays you’re more likely to find a chocolate egg baked into the top, giving you a little piece of the Easter you may be more accustomed to.
As far as getting around the city goes, things become slightly more difficult during Semana Santa Malaga. the processions will cause traffic disruptions and road closures so opt for public transport and the metro rather than hiring a car. Also make sure to note that the Thursday and Friday of that week are public holidays so plan ahead as the shops and possibly some restaurants will be closed.
Planning an Easter in Malaga? Make sure to tag us in your best Semana Santa Malaga photos by using the hashtag #ryanairstories for a chance to be featured on Ryainair’s social media channels.
Flights to Malaga
- Lucy Norris