Maritime Holy Week
Festivity declared of Tourist Interest
You may have heard of the moving Easter processions in Seville, or other pious celebrations in different Spanish destinations. Spain takes Semana Santa (or Holy Week) seriously, as a time to remember the Passion of the Christ with religious events. In Valencia too, you will find Mass services and processions by the seaside, but also plenty of colour, laughter, good food and, of course, fireworks. Easter in Valencia is different!
Valencia turns to the sea for Easter. Not just because it is a great time to enjoy the first rays of warm spring sun on the beach, but because it is in the seafaring districts of Cabanyal, Canyamelar and Grao where you will find the most special celebrations, during the Maritime Holy Week. These old fishermen’s villages have preserved their identity and traditions despite being now incorporated into the big city. You can tour their streets with their typical tiled houses any time of the year but, at Easter, they truly come to life with a mixture of devotion and a carnival atmosphere.
These are some of the unique traditions that make Easter in Valencia different:
Christ on the beach
Watch out if you are sunbathing on the Malvarrosa beach on Good Friday. You may suddenly be “invaded” by a procession carrying a statue of the Christ to the sea. For fishermen, the sea means life, and also death, and that is why they come here at Easter to offer their prayers for those who died at sea and peace around the world. In moving scenes, locals will throw wreaths and flowers onto the sea.
Saints at home
The sea is not the only unusual place where you will find religious statues at Easter. You will see them in people’s houses too! These are members of the 30 cofradías or brotherhoods, who take pride in turning their home into a temporary chapel in honour of a saint or a specific moment in the Passion of the Christ. On Maundy Thursday a procession accompanied by incessant drumming visits all these locations.
Time to dress up
You may be familiar with the image of hooded penitents in Spanish Easter processions. You will see them in Valencia too, but also Roman legionnaires, crusaders, French soldiers and people, young and old, dressed as biblical characters. Lazarus carrying his bandages, Mary Magdalene with a pot of perfume, Judith with a severed head on a tray… they will all parade through the streets on the main procession on Good Friday.
Celebrate with a bang
At midnight on Saturday, the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection begins with a bang…or two! Fireworks mark the start of the party, but there is extra noise as locals throw old pots and crockery from their balconies onto the streets – watch out as they may throw water too! Out with the old, in with the new, that is the significance of this peculiar trencà dels perols tradition. The final Easter Sunday parade is also a joyous one, where the penitents take off their hoods and throw flowers to the public instead.
In between processions, you will see the locals – probably still in their costumes – enjoying a drink on one of the many terraces. Make sure you join them too or replenish your energy with a paella at Casa Carmela or some delicious tapas at Casa Montaña. And if you fancy something sweet, Easter is the time to enjoy the traditional mona de Pascua (cake with a hard-boiled or chocolate egg) or a panquemao (fluffy sponge cakes with a slightly burnt crust). Then head to the beach and sit in the sun… until the next procession!
CALENDAR OF EVENTS FOR MARITIME HOLY WEEK
Palm Sunday. Procession of Palms.
The procession of Palms commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The procession begins at 9.45 am and lasts two and a half hours, with some very moving moments including the blessing of the palms in Plaza de nuestra señora de los Ángeles.
Plaza de nuestra señora de los Ángeles
Holy Thursday. Procession of the torches.
On the evening of Holy Thursday, starting at 8 pm and continuing into the small hours, the Visit of the Holy Monuments takes place to the sound of drums. Afterwards, the streets become filled with candles as different silent processions pass by.
Avenida del Mediterráneo
Good Friday. Procession of the Holy Burial.
The first important act starts at 8 am and is performed next to the shore on Playa de las Arenas, where homage is paid to the victims of the sea. At 6.30 pm the most important procession of Maritime Holy Week begins, that of the Holy Burial, which lasts for 5 hours and passes through all the streets of the coastal neighbourhoods.
Calle de la Reina
At 1 pm, the Resurrection procession begins. This colourful procession moves under a constant shower of petals which are thrown down from the balconies of houses.
Avenida del Mediterráneo