In a city whose most iconic ‘Fallas’ festival involves building hundreds of expensive and intricate sculptures, only to burn them all down simultaneously, it’s not surprising that even Easter celebrations are a little bit different in Valencia.
Easter’s Semana Santa or ‘Holy Week’ is celebrated across Spain as a sombre occasion where cofradias or ‘brotherhoods’ perform penance processions as tribute to the Passion of Christ. In Valencia there are also the typical pointy-hooded processions, but the Semana Santa Marinera has more playful-feeling elements, and a focus on resurrection, colour, food, and fireworks.
Based in the seaside districts of Cabanyal, Canyamelar, and Grao, around 30 cofradias with more than 3,000 members organise the Semana Santa Marinera together. There are several events including processions, Jesus icons, marching bands, hooded brothers, and flowers. Many houses even become temporary chapels for religious statues in honour of saints, which are visited during the Maundy Thursday drumming procession. The seafaring cofradias bring a unique oceanic flavour to the celebrations, and throughout the week the fishermen’s villages come alive with both piety and a party atmosphere.
The important events start with a sleepy 8am procession on Good Friday where the brotherhoods walk icon statues of Christ on the cross into the water at Malvarrosa, stopping on the way to wash the statues with cloths. Prayers are offered for those who died at sea and for peace around the world, and locals throw wreaths and flowers onto the sea in a moving display.
Also on Good Friday is the procession of the Holy Burial at 6.30pm, which commemorates Jesus’s death on the cross. Lasting for 5 hours, this procession marches slowly down Calle de la Reina to sombre drumbeats, and passes through all the coastal neighbourhood streets. While in other cities the processions will almost exclusively be brotherhoods in their pointy robes of different colours, in Valencia the costuming has a little more creative liberty. Alongside the hooded penitents, you’ll also spot people dressed as Roman soldiers, and biblical figures from bearded Herod to Judith with a severed head on a tray.
After the month-long build up to the explosive days of Fallas, most people would think that Valencia would have had enough fireworks by the time Semana Santa rolls around a few weeks later. Nevertheless, Valencianos make sure that their Semana Santa also includes fireworks to celebrate the resurrection at midnight on Saturday. You might even spot some locals taking ‘out with the old and in with the new’ quite literally, by throwing old pots, crockery, and water from their balconies onto the streets.
The final Easter Sunday parade is joyous and the music is upbeat. Penitents have removed their hoods and carry them in their hands instead, while flowers are thrown to the public. In between all these processions, it isn’t unusual to see costumed locals enjoying a drink or sharing a traditional Mona de Pascua (cake with a hard-boiled or chocolate egg), or panquemao (fluffy sponge cakes with slightly burnt crust).
After a few years of suspension – one due to rain, and two more due to the pandemic – the city is looking forward to the return of the Semana Santa Marinera, which has been declared a Festival of National Tourist Interest. For more information about the events this Easter, look on the website https://www.semanasantamarinera.org/?lang=en, or download the app designed by the city council, where you can find procession routes and timetables.
9.45h-12.15h Procession of the Palms. Commemorating the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
Plaza de nuestra Señora de los Ángeles
8pm until early in the morning. The Holy Monuments are visited while drums are played. Silent, candlelit processions take place after
Avenida del Medeterráneo
8am morning procession onto the Playa de Arenas/Malvarrosa beach.
6.30pm Holy Burial procession for 5 hours throughout coastal neighbourhoods.
Calle de la Reina
Fireworks display at midnight by the beach, celebrating the resurrection.
1pm Resurrection procession.
Avenida del Mediterráneo
Report by Julia McGee-Russell
Article copyright ‘24/7 Valencia’