Valencia, Spain Welcomes Holy Week Celebrations After Three Years

Valencia, Spain Welcomes Holy Week Celebrations After Three Years

A woman hands a child a flower during the Easter Sunday parade in Valencia, Spain, the city's end to its Maritime Holy Week festivies. (photo via Visit Valencia)

After three years without Valencia, Spain’s iconic and culturally unique Semana Santa Maritima de Valencia, or Valencia’s Maritime Holy Week, which had been canceled due to inclement weather in 2019 and the pandemic over the past two years, the city will once again come alive to celebrate the ten-day Christian festival with gusto, as it begins its biggest events April 8 through April 17.

The city’s Holy Week is dubbed the Maritime Holy Week because the celebrations are heavily influenced by its population of working-class fisherfolk who had entwined their often dangerous livelihoods with the protection of the Virgin Mary, of Jesus and of the saints as far back as the fifteenth century. The Maritime Holy Week continues to be celebrated in the fishing neighborhoods of El Grau, Canyamelar and Cabanyal, near the sea.

Valencia, Spain Welcomes Holy Week Celebrations After Three Years

Members of the same brotherhood in Valencia, both young and old, don elaborate robes and the hoods of penitents for many of the Holy Week processions. (photo via Visit Valencia)

While cities throughout the world celebrate Holy Week with some similarities, Valencia’s Holy Week is different in a few key ways. The first is the collection of more than thirty cofradías, or brotherhoods, that have specific roles to play in the festivities, especially in the parades. The homes of the brotherhoods’ members are turned into temporary chapels for certain saints or a moment during Christ’s death, with elaborate statues standing in each home.

Maundy Thursday is when these brothers take to the streets in a somber procession as they visit each of these temporary chapels and the statues, accompanied by drumming during the Visit of the Holy Monuments. When the visit is over, the drumming ends and the Procession of the Torches begins in silence, with each parade participant holding a candle to light their way.

Valencia, Spain Welcomes Holy Week Celebrations After Three Years

A member of one of Valencia’s 30+ brotherhoods wears the penitent hood and holds a candle during the Procession of the Torches on Maundy Thursday. (photo via Visit Valencia)

On Good Friday is the Procession of the Holy Burial, in which Spain’s signature hooded penitents walk together with characters from the Bible for a stunning 5-hour tour around the city. What makes this procession unique to Valencia is that it is also accompanied by people dressed up as French Grenadiers, Roman soldiers and the Corporations, who represent soldiers from Spain’s history.

Another procession joins the Sacred Burial procession on Good Friday, called the Parade of the Nazarenes. This is mainly the responsibility of the Brotherhoods of the Most Holy Christ the Savior and the Most Holy Christ the Savior and Protector, who take residents and travelers alike on an emotional pilgrimage to the Malvarrosa beach as they carry a figure of Jesus Christ down to the sea.

Valencia, Spain Welcomes Holy Week Celebrations After Three Years

A priest speaks during the Procession of the Nazarenes on Valencia’s Malvarrosa beach as the year’s Mary stands with her wreath as part of the city’s Maritime Holy Week. (photo via Visit Valencia)

There, they’ll participate in a memorial ceremony and prayer for lost fishermen and for world peace. A woman chosen to represent the grieving Mary will lay a flower wreath into the sea in grief for her dead son, followed by others doing the same.

On Saturday, residents and travelers alike stay inside to represent the period of mourning before Christ’s resurrection, staying up all night in wait. At exactly midnight, fireworks begin throughout the city, followed by the unique tradition called trencà dels perols, in which residents throw out old pots and crockery from their windows down into the streets to signify rebirth and renewal.

Valencia, Spain Welcomes Holy Week Celebrations After Three Years

The large procession continues throughout Valencia during the Easter Sunday parade, the most joyful parade during Valencia’s Holy Week. (photo via Visit Valencia)

This is the day when Holy Week turns joyful, and the Easter Sunday Resurrection Parade offers a much happier atmosphere than the ones before it, with happy music, dancing, and people throwing flowers. Those who wore the signature pointed hoods of the penitents during the previous processions now throw them off as a sign of their joy and salvation.

The Maritime Holy Week is the second biggest annual festival in Valencia, and it’s going to be of even more importance this year after three years without it. Maximo Caletrio, promotions manager for the U.S. and Canada of the Visit Valencia Foundation, explains.

“It has been three years since the last Maritime Holy Week celebrations, so people are very keen to see a full return of activities, which many will no doubt enjoy to the fullest,” Caletrio said. “So, in anticipation of the high turnout, we recommend showing up early at the processions, especially the most popular ones, on Holy Thursday, with the visit to the sacred monuments; Good Friday, with the general procession of the Sacred Burial; and Easter Sunday, with the Resurrection march.”

Valencia, Spain Welcomes Holy Week Celebrations After Three Years

Pan de Pascua, or Easter Bread, a sweet treat in Valencia during Holy Week. (photo via Visit Valencia)

The Holy Week also offers some of Valencia’s unique cuisine for its visitors. Throughout Lent and on Good Friday, many of the restaurants offer even more options for seafood, including local dishes made with cod and tuna, with no lack of delicious meals to try. Travelers should also try the Mona de Pascua, which is a sweetbread with raisins and walnuts, as well as the Easter sausage. Travelers who’d like to enjoy the dishes like a local should visit the Turia Garden, where they’ll find families enjoying these treats during the late afternoon.

There’s so much more to celebrate in Valencia this Easter than in years before; the Maritime Holy Week is sure to be a moment to remember for both residents and travelers alike.

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