This week, Catholic communities across Spain will be holding a range of events to mark Easter with Semana Santa. This festival is held to commemorate the final events in the life of Jesus Christ, including the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. In Valencia, the celebrations take a unique twist on the traditional with the Holy Week celebrated as El Semana Santa Marinera or Maritime Holy Week.
This event has been declared a Festival of National Interest and celebrates more than 500 years of tradition. It was formed in the districts of Grao and Cabanyal, which were formerly separate towns from Valencia. In a move to retain their regional identity, El Maritim was created. It is a traditional religious ceremony with a strong political influence and it began with just a few sailors and members of the local fishing community. Its origins are believed to date back as far as the 15th century and this event is particularly special to the Valencia community as it celebrates their close relationship with the sea. These links to the sea mark the celebrations out from those in the rest of Spain, while Holy Week events in Valencia also take on lighter, less sombre note than those in other regions.
The events began on 29 March and will continue until 5 April, with the main activity focused in Cabanyal-Canyameral maritime district. One of the most unique features of the festival will take place from the early hours of Holy Saturday until Easter Sunday – the ‘Night of Glory’, This event sees the trencà dels perols (the breaking of the pots) – a strange and entertaining custom in which the district’s inhabitants throw buckets of water and old pots and pans from their balconies onto the street below to celebrate new beginnings and the discarding of the old.
During the festival, each of the city’s brotherhoods take it in turns to walk in procession with their holy statues, which are then traditionally deposited in the home of one of the holiest members of each fraternity. While the theme is religious, the tone of these celebrations is that of a carnival – with the Sacred Burial parade on Easter Sunday a lavish, enjoyable and colourful affair in which all the brotherhoods come together to travel the route of the Holy Entombment, accompanied by the sound of bell ringing and joyful, traditional music. This celebration of Christ’s Resurrection also includes festivalgoers dressed as traditional Biblical figures who shower the audience with flowers.
Local fishermen will play a prominent part in the festival, which is also a great opportunity to get to know an authentic and less-discovered part of the city. Traditional food is also eaten during this time, with fish dishes such as cod balls and sardines in pickle, as well as good, old-fashioned Easter eggs. This is a lively and exciting way to celebrate one of Valencia’s most deep-rooted traditions and a lovely way to enjoy the city in all its glory.