Setmana Santa And Easter Traditions in Mallorca

Today, Setmana Santa (the Easter week) begins in Spain, and here in Mallorca. Lots of magical scenes can be seen all over the island, and plenty of powerful images can be taken if you so wished. On the last Sunday before Easter, Mallorca celebrates Diumenge des Ram (Palm Sunday), commemorating the entering of Jesus in Jerusalem. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the all important Setmana Santa (Holy Week), the most important of all religious celebrations here in Spain. The Easter week is a continuous celebration of the dramatic and rather compelling Easter processions, mostly celebrated with colourful gowns and hooded masks. Today, olive branches will be blessed and given to the churchgoers, or anyone coming along for the asking. This evening, the first of the Easter processions will be held in Palma at 19h00 with the attendance of all 35 local Cofrarías (confraternities, or brotherhoods). Last Friday, representatives of Palma’s Cofrarías paraded their standard flags through Palma (see photo below, courtesy of diariodemallorca.es), solemnly manifesting their presence at this year’s Easter proceedings.

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You will probably find the more visually stunning Easter processions to be found in Palma but, even after more than 25 years in Mallorca, I am still in awe of the sheer drama and the visual impact of Easter processions in the local villages. Full listings can be obtained from your local town-hall, the daily newspapers or the Internet.

Easter processions in Mallorca usually involve hooded cloaks, drumming and long candles, whilst some involve chains, mock flagellation and bare feet. This week, there will also be performances of Vía Crucis or Vía Dolorosa (The Bearing of the Cross) processions and theatrical Passion Play performances, Davallaments, Enterraments and vigils.

One of the more vivid Easter processions is the Processó del Silenci (Procesión del Silencio, Silent Procession), held in complete silence and solemnity, with the quietness only broken by a deep and throbbing drumbeat, usually performed on Tuesday before Easter.

Dijous Sant (Jueves Santo, Maundy Thursday) marks the last day of Quaresma (Lent). On this day, the annual Processó de la Sang, the largest of the Easter processions, is held with hundreds of hooded penitents participating, and thousands of believers in utter repentance in Palma. Visually, it is all quite stunning. In the past, a stringent regimen of fasting meant that the eating of sweets or meat was not allowed during Lent. After the end of Lent, at Divendres Sant (Viernes Santo, Good Friday), Robiols (sweet pies), Panades (savoury pastries), Crespells (sweet biscuits) and Coques de Patata (potato flour buns) are prepared for the festive weekend and beyond.

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The Golgatha celebration (Passion of Christ) in Mallorca is a pageant centred around the Davallament, the story of the Last Supper, the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, Jesus’s capture, his crucifixion, the taking off from the cross, the Pietà and, finally, the Enterrament (burial). Davallament performances are usually performed live in Felanitx, Artà, Sant Joan and Pollença.

On Easter Sunday, most Mallorcan pueblos and parishes celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the Encontrada between the Virgin Mary and her son, Jesus. This is a joyful procession, now without hoods or cloaks, where brass music is played by the Banda de Música and when pigeons are released en masse to celebrate the happy occasion. A Missa Solemne (solemn mass service) is usually celebrated after the Encontrada, concluding the religious part of Easter and Setmana Santa for another year.

Easter Monday is not traditionally a church holiday in Spain, but has acquired holiday status in recent years to allow for the celebration of Pancaritats. In Mallorca, this is a tradition involving citizens convening at monasteries and hermitages to share food with one another and with other, less privileged members of the local community. In Felanitx, a Pujada Solidaria journey on foot is organised up to Sant Salvador, the nearest Puig to Felanitx and the seat of the Santuari de Sant Salvador, the monastery originating from the 15th century.

On the Sunday after Easter, Diumenge de l’Àngel will be celebrated in many Mallorcan pueblos and at Palma’s Castell del Bellver with church services of the more informal kind and with further festive gatherings. More food to be shared between all, no doubt.

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There are other Easter celebrations apart from the Catholic ones as well, such as Eastern Orthodox Pascha festivities. Orthodox Easter dates often do not coincide with the dates of Easter celebrations in Western Europe. This year, the Orthodox church celebrates Easter on May 5th.

Jehova’s Witnesses in Mallorca, or everywhere for that matter, do not celebrate Easter as such but, instead, observe the anniversary of the Last Supper on Dijous Sant (Jueves Santa, or Maundy Thursday). Happy anniversary.

The Jewish community in Mallorca is celebrating Pesach or Passover, beginning on the 15th day of Nisan (sunset of March 25th, this year, i. e. today) and to continue until April 2nd, if I am not mistaken. Happy Passover.

This year, the Islamic world celebrated Mawlid an-Nabī, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, in January (23rd/24th). For some reason, the thousands of Moroccans in Mallorca do not seem to have joined in the festivities, whereas they would have back home in Morocco, I am told.

The faithful followers of Sikh will celebrate Baisakhi on April 13th/14th. Baisakhi is the anniversary of the birth of Khalsa, and as such one of the most significant holidays in the Sikh calendar. I do not know how many Sikh followers there are in Mallorca but I know that there are some. Happy Baisakhi.

Vaisakhi is observed as the beginning of the Hindu solar new year on April 14th, celebrated by the people of Nepal as well as Indians in West Bengal, Tamilnadu, Kerala and some other regions of India. Again you can trust that there are sufficient numbers of members of the Hindu faith in Mallorca to warrant festive new year celebrations, here on this island. Happy New Year.

Parts of today’s blog entry were taken from an article I contributed to discovermallorca.com, a Mallorca website. Thank you for permission of the use of some of that information, here.

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