Many Spanish cities celebrate Easter with emotive processions of international fame, such as those of Seville or multitudinous tambourines as in Calanda. In Valencia, Easter has a different flavour: sea flavour. Although less well-known, the celebration of the Maritime Holy Week in Valencia surprises those who witness it for its passion, creativity and also good humour. Would you like to join?
With the embers of the Fallas still smoking, the Valencians prepare for the next festivities, especially in the neighbourhoods of Cabañal, Canyamelar, and Grao, where they celebrate the Maritime Holy Week. They are ancient villages of fishermen and sailors who, despite joining the great city of Valencia, have preserved their identity and their peculiar traditions.
These are some of those unique traditions that differentiate the Maritime Holy Week and have made it earn recognition as a holiday of National Tourist Interest:
- Processions in the sand: some unsuspecting tourist who may be enjoying the first rays of spring sun on the beach may be surprised by an “invasion_” of penitents in pointed bonnets in the sand. For any sailor village the sea means life, and also death, and that is where they direct their prayers. That’s why during the Maritime Holy Week the images of Christ are carried to the shore, to pray for the dead in the sea and for the peace of the world.
- Penitents and Romans: about 30 religious orders and brotherhoods maintain the tradition of the Maritime Holy Week alive, each dedicated to a representative image of The Passion, Death and resurrection of Christ, whom they worship and bring out in processions. But if the typical image of the Spanish Easter is the penitents covered with capirotes (pointed bonnets), in Valencia there also parade troops of Romans (the Pretorians and Longinos), soldiers of the Crusades (the sayones) or of the Napoleonic invasion (the Grenadiers).
- A saint at home: during the Holy Week, the images of the Saints are kept in the headquarters of the Brotherhoods, and often in the private houses of one of their members, which temporarily becomes a chapel. For the Brother, this is the ultimate honour, and something that all members of the guild aspire to. On Maundy Thursday, it takes place the visit to the monuments, a procession with tambourines in which all these venues are visited.
- Veronicas and Lazarus: everybody participates during the Maritime Holy Week, even the smallest, but with a peculiarity: they do it dressed in biblical characters. Lazarus with his bandages, Veronica with the cloth of the face of Christ, Pontius Pilate with the manuscript of the sentence, The Child Jesus with the ball of the world…all will take part in processions like the Holy burial on Good Friday, the most emotional of all.
- Farewell to the dishes: the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ is also a time of renewal, of saying goodbye to the old and beginning a new stage…with joy and good humour. Hence, the curious tradition of the trencà dels perols (breaking of the dishes): at midnight on Holy Saturday, the locals celebrate the Resurrection by throwing old dishes from the balconies, or simply buckets of water. Don’t get caught off guard!
- Festivity and devotion are mixed in the Maritime Holy Week in Valencia. This is evident in acts such as the colourful Glory Parade on Resurrection Sunday, when the penitents remove their capirotes and the biblical characters throw petals to the public, in pure celebration. But also throughout the week, the most solemn acts coexist with a near carnival atmosphere in the streets of the maritime villages.
And if to these traditions we add the opportunity to take a walk on the beach under the Mediterranean sun, and recharge your batteries with a paella or tapas in the local premises like Bodega Casa Montaña or Casa Carmela, there is no doubt that the Holy Week is a special time to enjoy Valencia.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS OF THE MARITIME HOLY WEEK
Palm Sunday Palms Procession.
The Palm procession commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. This procession begins at 9:45 a.m. and lasts for two and a half hours, with great emotional moments, such as the blessing of the Palms in the Plaza of Our Lady of Angels.
Maundy Thursday. Torch procession.
On the night of Holy Thursday from 20:00 hours and way into the wee hours, there is a visit to the Holy Monuments, accompanied by tambourines, and drums. Afterwards, the streets are filled with candles in different processions of recollection and silence.
Good Friday. Procession of the Holy Burial.
The first important act takes place on the beach shore of las Arenas from 8:00 am, with a tribute to the victims of the sea. At 18: 30 begins the most important procession of Holy Maritime Week, that of the Holy burial, which lasts around 5 hours and runs through all the streets of the maritime neighbourhoods.
At 1 pm begins the parade of the Resurrection, a procession which is very colourful, with an incessant rain of flower petals, which are thrown from the balconies of the houses.